Risk Week 1: Front Row Seat

Sermon Transcript

Well, good morning to everybody and also good morning to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. Isn’t there something in every one of our hearts that we see something like that, we hear the music and we just go, “Man, there’s got to be something more.”

We’re all intrigued by that. We love the fairy tales. We love those stories about doing something great. And, ultimately, all of those things, at some level, require taking a risk. So, we’re starting a new series this weekend. If this is your first time with us at Grace, you hit the proverbial church jackpot starting off on a brand new series. So, we’re glad you’re here. Or maybe you’ve been coming for a couple of weeks. This is also a great time anytime we start a new series.

But, what I want to do is I want to ask you a question. When you think about risk – I’m probably the anomaly. I was sitting in my office months ago when we were putting this thing together and I was thinking, “Okay, if I was playing a word association game and somebody said ‘risk,’ what would I think of?”

I said, “The board game.”

Probably nobody else would be thinking about that but me. I’m weird. But, anyway, the deal is all of us know about risk. I mean, we had to take a risk at some point to maybe go off to that college that we went to. Or maybe we took a risk to walk across the room to see that girl that we wanted to ask out. We all know that. And normally when we think about risk, if I were to say, “Define risk for me. Tell me what a risk is,” you probably would define it in some sort of risk versus reward.

“Well, I would maybe do this if the chance for this.”

Or you might define it even in like an insurance way. You know? Risk loss. Risk aversion. Risk mitigation. Those things. Like, “I’ll do a little bit of risk, but maybe not so much risk.”

So, really, if I were to sit down and ask, “What does it mean to risk?” I think we really, genuinely, would get hundreds of different answers. So, what I want to do is I want to bring us all up, maybe, to sort of the same sheet of music. Listen to what the dictionary says about the definition of risk. It says, “A situation involving exposure to danger.”

Most of you probably are thinking, “Well, yeah. I’m not quite sure I want to go that far with my risk. I like maybe going across the room and saying hi to the quite girl or something like that. But, I’m not sure that the exposure to danger – I’m not sure that I would go that far with my risk.”

Because, typically we judge risk in terms of what’s the reward and I’m going, “Eh, that’s a little too far.”

Or how about this one here? “Possibility of loss or injury.”

Like, “Okay, well, I don’t know that I really would want to lose anything or injure anything.”

This particular definition reminds me of a tourist that went to Europe to see a monastery. He had done his research and he really wanted to see this monastery. Well, his research wasn’t that great because when he got there he realized the only way to see the monastery was to be lifted up in a basket a couple of thousand feet along a rock cliff and then you could see the monastery that was perched way up into the mountain there.

So, he gets there and, all of a sudden, this basket comes lowering down and there’s a monk in it. And he’s got to make the decision. Do I want to take the risk here to go up and see the monastery? So, he gets into the basket with the monk and he looks and there’s four ropes on each corner of the basket that go up to one major rope. He gets in and they start going up. He looks at the monk and he says, “This is a little crazy. How are we being hoisted up?”

The monk says, “Well, the 21 other monks that are up on top of the cliff are pulling us right now.”

And he’s like, “Oh, man.”

He’s too far up now. And there’s no intercom to say, “Please stop the ride. Stop the ride.”

None of that stuff. So, he’s thinking, “Man. I have really taken a risk here on some loss and injury.”

So, he’s sitting there, he’s looking around and he looks up at the rope that’s holding the basket up and it’s tattered and frayed. He’s like, “Man, this is not a good gig right now.”

The bad part is he knows that even if he gets up there he’s still got to come down. So, he’s looking around and he’s like, “Hey, I’m not trying to be the tourist or anything. I don’t want to be negative. But, man, that rope is in bad shape up here. When do you plan on replacing the rope?”

The monk’s like, “When it breaks.”

So, I don’t know that if you guys really want to go that far in your risk or not, but you probably are saying, “Okay, that’s a little bit too far.”

But, before you dig in saying I wouldn’t go as far as danger, exposure or all of that stuff, let me ask you a question: What would you risk for your kids? See? All of a sudden it’s like, “Well, okay. Maybe I would go a little bit further than not.”

Some of you are going, “I don’t have any kids.”

Well, pretend that you do. Play along with Pastor Chip. I mean, please. Sometimes you’ve just got to play along with the pastor here a little bit. Okay? So, what would you do for your kids? How about a chance? How about a chance at that one thing or that one person? What would you do? How far would you go? What would your risk be? How about a job? How much would you risk for your job? There’s people that are in law enforcement that potentially put their lives on the line every day. People in the military that potentially put their lives on the line every day. How far would you go for your job?

How about for a Klondike Bar? What would you do for a Klondike Bar? Right? Like, one of my friends says, “What would I not do for a Klondike Bar?”

How about your spouse? What if somebody broke into your house? What would you do? Would you put yourself out in danger or for injury? How about your freedoms? How far would you go? What would you do to protect those things? What would be your risk?

So, all of a sudden, you’re going, “Well, yeah. You know what? Maybe I would. Maybe at some points I would risk a lot more than I thought I would risk. Maybe you’re right.”

Well, as your pastor, I have to ask this question because this is what I do and this is the one where it might get uncomfortable. What would you risk for Jesus? How far would you go? Many of you are thinking, “Well, yeah. Maybe I would go overseas. Maybe I would do the Philippines trip.”

No, no. Listen. Before you get off on those tangents, I want you to listen here and listen to me. This is so important: What if I could inform you today, what if I could convince you today that every single one of us in this room, no matter what background we come from, no matter what countries we came from, no matter what denominations we grew up in, no matter if we were sprinkled or if we were dunked when we were baptized, no matter any of that stuff – what if I were to tell you that there is one thing above all things that God has asked each one of us to take a risk with? And everybody in here is on the same playing field. Everybody in here has the same call. Everybody in here has the same movement to take a risk that there’s one thing that God genuinely wants us to take a risk for in our lives and it’s applicable to every single person no matter where you’ve come from or where you’ve been.

Let me explain that by tell you a story. I grew up and I was a child of the 80’s. I was born in 1970. I grew up and my favorite band was Van Halen. I loved Van Halen. I was a strong proponent of letting my friends know about Van Halen and I played guitar and, believe it or not, I had hair at one point to about my waist. There’s a few of those pictures that are still out there in the wild. I rebuke them in the name of Jesus. But, they’re still out there.

I played guitar. Well, I had a buddy named Mark Putterman. Mark would come over to my house and we’d go to concerts together and he’d listen to me play guitar. I played him, I think, every Van Halen song I could ever play him and all of those good things. So, me and Mark were pretty good buddies. Well, somewhere along the way, around 17 or 18, I became a Christian. When I became a Christian, I can’t tell you why, I genuinely – the best way to say this is I can’t tell you why. The first thing that I did when I became a Christian is I went to a bookshelf that my mom and dad had in the house. On the bookshelf, there was a book that said “The Book of Revelation.”

I pulled that off and it was a commentary. And I just got so intrigued in reading that book. Now, listen: Don’t try that at home, because I was a professional. Okay? I’m just kidding. I was an idiot. So, I’m reading this book and I’m reading about beasts and the sea and crowns. So, I’m going to school and I’m telling everybody about the book of Revelation. Well, some of my friends too were like, “You are weird.”

And I said, “Well, I’m just suffering for Jesus.”

I was weird. The deal was is I’m doing the book of Revelation and telling everybody about Revelation because that was sort of my deal right then. As the kids say, that was my jam. So, I’m doing the book of Revelation. One day, I come to high school on a Monday. Some of my friends, I could tell, were really down and out. And I said, “What’s up?”

And they’re like, “You haven’t heard?”

I’m like, “No. What happened?”

They said, “You haven’t heard about Mark?”

I’m like, “No. What happened?”

“Well, Mark got really, really, really, really drunk this weekend.”

That wasn’t an abnormal thing for me to think that Mark would do.

“But, he wrapped his car around a tree, drunk, and he died this weekend.”

All of a sudden, I realized what the main thing was. I had never shared Jesus with Mark. Man, I’d talked about the book of Revelation. I talked about things about Jesus. I talked to him about Van Halen. I’d showed him my guitar. I’d gone to concerts with him. But, all of a sudden I realized, man, there’s a main thing and that main thing is the main thing that every single one of us, no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been, are called to be people that live an invitational life. We’re called to let people know about Jesus and we so easily get distracted from that.

It was all about the book of Revelation. And I had that moment where I realized that’s the most important thing is that I let my friends and people that I love know about Jesus. But still, over time I would get distracted and it would be something else that would be the thing that I would lead with or something else. So, what I want to do in this series is I want to try to keep the main thing the main thing. Because, sometimes we forget what that is or we lose sight of it. And we all know that. We all know that it’s so easy to get distracted off of the main thing and sort of think that the main thing that we’re talking about is the main thing even though the main thing that should be the main thing isn’t the main thing. And we take a risk sometimes for the main thing that really isn’t the main thing and, even though we take that risk for the main thing, it’s not the main thing.

Are you following me on that one? Okay. So, why do we get so easily distracted? Why do we get so caught up in other things? Well, first of all, we’re often peekers rather than connectors. Let me explain what I mean by this: To connect with people, you’ve really got to know them. We’re peekers. Now, you’re probably not going to want to raise your hand, but that’s okay. But, this is the way it works in America today.

80% of the people in America don’t even know their next door neighbor’s name and where they’re from and how old they are. We live in gated communities. We shop on Amazon rather than going to the mall because we don’t want to deal with people. What we do is we meet somebody at church – and you don’t have to raise your hand, but you know this is true – and the first thing you do is you type in their name on Facebook, because you’re a peeker.

“Let me see what’s going on.”

I know. I mean, come on.

“Ooo. Their kids are ugly. Oh my goodness. She’s got a tattoo? Can’t be a Christian. Oh my goodness. They were at the bar? Gluttons and sinners.”See, what happens is when we’re peekers, we don’t have to get involved in anybody’s life. And when you don’t have to get involved in anybody’s life, you can push them away with things like, “Well, they live that way. They do that. They didn’t do this. They don’t agree with me on this position.”

But see, if it’s a family member or if it’s somebody that’s close to you, they can do something dumb and you’ll defend them. Why? Because you’re connected. So, so often we get distracted and we’re doing all these other things rather than telling people about the main thing because we’ve become peekers. What I’d like to just say is it’s not just about inviting someone to discover our faith. That’s what you do as a peeker. Just come on. But, discovering how we can be invited into someone else’s life.

See, Jesus didn’t meet people just at wells and in the middle of being caught in adultery. Jesus was involved in people’s lives and we need to learn how to do that. We need to learn how to not be peekers. We need to learn how to be connectors, and we’re going to talk about that over the next several weeks.

The second thing that makes it really tough for us today to keep the main thing the main thing is being more me-minded, we become less kingdom-minded. Let me explain that, because here’s the way it goes. A lot of times, people will say, “Chip, let me be me and you do you, because I’m going to be me and you can be you and that’s the way it works.”

And everybody’s doing I want to be me. Just let me be me. That’s what I want to be. I want to be me. I want to be me. Well, the problem is that me and the kingdom clash. See, Jesus didn’t come so that you could become a better me. Jesus came so you could become more like Him. Oftentimes, me and the kingdom, they don’t work together. And what we do is whatever our “me” is – and we’ve all got our “me.” Everybody’s got their “me.” Whatever their “me” is, and it may be a million different things. We tend to do this as well – especially if we’re Christians: Whatever our “me” is, when we read Scripture, we find the Jesus that fits our “me.”

So, what we do is we end up creating a Christ in our image to support me rather than being someone who’s a servant of the kingdom. How this works is this: We all have these pyramids in our lives. I mean, they’re not like pyramids like overseas or anything, but they’re hierarchies of things that are – you know, this is the least important thing in my life and this is a little bit more important and then this is a little bit more important. But, this right here, that right there is the most important thing in my life, and that’s me. That is me. People always say to me, “Man, up on top of your pyramid? You just must love children with all those kids that you have.”

I just love my wife. So, anyway, the deal is that we’ve got all this stuff going on here and everybody sort of stacks this thing up and then there’s their “me.” And that’s their “me.” Now, if you’re in here today and you’re not a Christian or maybe you came and you’re not even sure about the church stuff, this is really not at you. Just sit back. You probably will agree with me. You’ll be going, “I’m glad somebody said that.”

But, for those of us who are followers of Christ, we call ourselves Christians, this is what we normally do with our pyramids. Because, everybody’s going to have their “me.” So, what happens? Somebody comes along and says, “Okay. Here’s what needs to be happening in the church. This is what needs to be happening. We need to be discipling people and we need to be educating people, because that is the most important thing that we can do. That’s my ‘me.’ And I’m going to tell you about my ‘me’ whenever you meet me.”

Somebody else comes along and says, “No, no, no, no, no. It’s fine here, but really it’s all about getting our worship on. That’s what’s important to me. I want to come and get my worship on. And I’m okay with your discipling. You can be you. But, I want to be me. I want to do my worship thing.”

Somebody else comes along and says, “No, no, no, no. The most important thing is that we go out and see justice and social transformation in the lives of the community, because Jesus did that type of stuff and that’s what we need to do.”

Somebody else comes along and says, “No, no, no, no. What we need is more community. We need more small groups. We need more stuff like this and everything.”

And what happens is everybody then at church, everybody who’s a follower of Christ has their pyramid. And they have, at the top of their pyramid, their “me.” And it’s usually one of these or something like this. Or it may be their ministry.

“I’m going to do it. God’s called me to do something.”

I get people all the time that come in – I don’t even know them – and they’ll be like, “Here is my ministry and I am ready to now unleash it on your congregation.”

I’m like, “I don’t even know you. Why am I going to put you up front and let you unleash whatever that is? It might even be the beast that you’re unleashing. You know?”

I mean, it’s funny that people are like, “That’s me.”

And then if you tell them no, they get mad because it’s their “me.” That’s their “me” and if you offend their “me,” that’s not good. You can do you, they can do me. But, when me and you don’t agree, it’s not pretty. So, what happens is this is what goes on in the church all the time. Two people come together with two different pyramid structures and it looks something like this. And all of a sudden they go, “Well, this is my main thing.”

And they go, “Well, that’s my main thing.”

“Well, your main thing’s not my main thing.”

“Well, your main thing’s not my main thing and I don’t know that I like you that much.”

And what happens is these pyramids like to go be with these pyramids, because it’s easier to get along with. And that pyramid we just want to push over here and do this. And that’s why there’s 40,000 denominations in America. And then what we do is when we find out “me’s,” we get together and we create a church that’s built around me. And it’s a country club. And we wonder why when this one walks in they don’t feel welcome. Because, “me” is not you. And since you’re not me and my main thing’s not your main thing and your main thing’s not my main thing, we just sort of can play the game of, “Ah, you do you and I’ll do me, but I really don’t want to hang out with you that much because you’re not like me.”

Right? But, listen: Every single one of us up here and up here, if we’re kingdom people, our number one concern is what’s Jesus’ number one concern? Because, the “me” isn’t about me. The “me” is about Him. And does Jesus have a main concern that’s above all the main concerns? Is there a reason why He came? And He says, “Yes. I came to seek and save the lost. That’s why I came.”

That’s your “me” now. Your “me,” number one above all things, is to seek and save that which is lost. Can I give you just a revelation here? There is no discipleship in the Church, there is no education in the Church, there is no worship in the Church, there is no community in the Church, there is no justice or social transformation in the Church until somebody moves from lost to found. And when we make those things the most important thing, what we forget is the most important thing. And the main thing is no longer the main thing, although we will risk all of it and we will do everything that we can to support the things that we feel are the “me.” When, in reality, if we are followers of Jesus, our “me” is to seek and save that which is lost. It’s to not sit around and wonder what happened to Mark Putterman.

So, what I want to do this weekend is I want to invite you to what I call front row seat living. I’ll do this with an illustration. Back in 99, I worked for Land Rover and they came up with this thing that you could win X amount of money if you would do a video walk around on one of their cars. So, I did what I would normally do. My wife calls me her little overachiever. I hired a professional studio to come in and record me. Well, they got all the videos in and they called me.

“Hey, Chip? Yeah. Your video is like way, way, way better than everybody else’s.”

I’m like, “Of course it is. I’m a winner. That’s what winners do. We win.”

I was a winner before Charlie Sheen was a winner. You know? I’m like, “I’m a winner. That’s just what it is.”

They were like, “Well, yeah. But, it’s so good that it’s just so bad how good it is.”

And I’m like, “Well, I’m winning.”

They’re like, “Well, okay. Here’s what we’ll do. We need to let this other guy be the winner, but we’re going to give you front row seats to the Super Bowl in Miami,” which was 1999 because they’d taken an ad out. The first time, and the think the only time, Land Rover ever took an ad out at the Super Bowl. So, I was like, “Man, front row seats? That sounds like a pretty good gig at the Super Bowl.”

So, there I was. Front row seats with my dad. We drove down. It was the Atlanta Falcons versus the Denver Broncos. And, for those of you all who know Tom Jones, that’s the only other time that the Atlanta Falcons had been in the Super Bowl. Both times they lost. Okay? He’s a lot bigger than me. I need to watch out. So, anyway, it was awesome. I was like, “Evander Holyfield is my new buddy. Tony Robbins was my friend. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was right behind me.”

You know? It’s like I was right in the middle of all of them. It was like front row seats, man. And you know what it did? It scarred me for the rest of my life. I don’t even want to go anywhere anymore to a concert if I’m not on the front row. It’s like, “Man. Why would I go to that thing? I want the front row. How much is that on Stub Hub? Man, I want to be on the front row.”

But, man. It really did. It changed my life. And what I want to do is I want to convince you that there is a life you and I can live, being an invitational person, that we can see such an incredible life if we’ll just simply do the things that God has asked you and me to do and risk that for Him.

So, what I want to do is this: I want to show you how that works in the first century. Everybody knows the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul and Barnabas and his group, they sailed into what is called Pisidian Antioch. You could look it up. It’s Pisidian Antioch, or sometimes it’s called Antioch of Pisidia. When they rolled into that city, there was probably about 50,000 people there. Paul, as his custom was, would go into the synagogue, he would wait for the people to teach, and then they usually would ask him, “Would you like to say anything?”

They saw he was a visiting person and he would get up and he would talk. I want you to hear his sermon and I want you to feel the weight of his sermon and I want you to listen to this sermon as I sort of try my best to preach this sermon that Paul would have said. We’re going to join it sort of in the middle here.

He says, “Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent.”

They’re like, “Oh. Salvation, man? I want to hear about this. I’m leaning in.”

He says, “For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, recognizing neither Him [Jesus] nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these [words in Scripture] by condemning Him.”

Now, isn’t this interesting? These are people that know Scripture. These are people that want people to know Yahweh. These are people that want people to live a better life. These are people that want to see people become more than they are. These are people that understand rights from wrongs. But, they missed the main thing completely. The very book that they were reading, they missed the main thing. Not only did they miss they main thing, they didn’t recognize Him when He walked among them. They didn’t even realize that the Scriptures that they were reading were all about Him in the first place. Oh, they were about things. The Scriptures that they read were about things and those things were main things to them and they took risks for those main things. But, they weren’t the main thing.

He says, “All these leaders, they blew it.”

Everybody in there’s going, “Man, this is going to be good. Nobody’s ever come in here and ripped on some religious leaders. They probably need to be ripped on a little bit. Nobody is bold enough to say it. Man, this guy is bold.”

He says, “And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilot that He be executed. And when they had carried all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb.”

I wonder how many times we as Christians and we as churches have put Jesus in the tomb to not be found because we didn’t understand the main thing and we were doing things that we thought were biblical, saying things that we thought were right, taking risks for those things, but we just simply weren’t doing the main thing?

“But, God raised Him from the dead.”

See, that is the main thing. Everybody in there’s going, “Whoa, man. This guy got up from the grave? Man. Whoa.”

He says, “Oh, yeah. And for many days. Not like one. Many days. He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem. He walked with them all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem for many days. And these very ones are now His witnesses to the people. They’re the ones that now talk about the main thing. They saw the main thing, they know the main thing and they share about the main thing.”

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the Greek word for witnesses is the word we get our word martyr from?

“And we preach to you the good news. We have good news for you.”

Everybody in that synagogue is like, “Man, this is awesome, man. We’ve been doing the bulls, the goats, the blood and the fire. Man, I need some good news in my life, man. This is good news.”

He says, “Listen: Let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. You can be forgiven, guys. And through Him, everyone who believes is freed from all things from which you could not be freed through the law of Moses.”

They’re going, “Man, praise God. I’ve been doing all this work and all this effort. Man, you’re telling me I can be forgiven? You’re telling me that I can be freed? Man, where can I sign up?”

And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people begged them that they would come back for another performance the next Sabbath. I hear Christians all the time going, “We preach the Bible. We need to run people out of the church.”

Folks, when the Gospel was preached, as a general rule, the people that needed to hear it, the people that were on the outskirts of society, the people that were the prostitutes, the tax collectors and all those people that were looking for something in life to tell them that they had value and dignity, they responded to the Gospel like a bull out of a cage. Just kicking and bucking and so excited that it was good. It was the religious people that didn’t like to hear the good news.

“I want to run some people off.”

How about running some people in? He’s begging them. Begging them. “Dude, come on. You’ve got to come back. You have to come back. You know why? Because we’ve got people that need to hear this.”

This group of probably 150-200 people, look what happens. The next Sabbath, nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. 50,000 people were in Pisidia. Do I think 50,000 people showed up? No. But, do I think thousands showed up? You betcha. They didn’t know what to do. Because, everybody’s going, “Man, I’ve got to go drag somebody in to hear this message, because this message will change your life.”

What’s your book of Revelation that you lead with? Or do we lead with Jesus or do we get distracted? So, here’s what I want to do. I want to just simply ask you this: Do you understand that these people drug everybody back to the synagogue because they heard the main thing from people who knew the main thing was the main thing? That’s what I want to do over the next few weeks with you all. I want to help equip everybody to have the tools in their toolbox to live an invitational life and not get distracted.

So, briefly, all I’m going to do is this. You don’t need to write these down. I just want you to think about this. These are some take home questions that I want you to just say to the Lord this week, pray to the Lord this week these things. This is it:

What obstacles do I have in my life that interfere with the main thing? What do people know me for? What do I yell about? What do I push on people? What do I tell people they should do and how they should live and all of this? What distracts people from the main thing? What obstacles, God, do I have in my life that interfere from the main thing?

Second thing: Am I willing to be uncomfortable at times to take a risk? Everybody’s been uncomfortable some time because it was worth it. This is the highest stakes game in town. This is why I say all the time that I don’t want anybody – I mean anybody – to have an easy time going to hell in Lakewood Ranch. I want to make it difficult for anybody to go to hell. Because, we’re out doing the main thing and telling people the good news.

“Hey, God’s not mad at you. He wants you to come home.”

Third thing: Who’s welcome at my table? Only the people that see the way you see? Only the people that like the things you like? Only the people that think about the issues the way you think about them? Or is everybody welcome at your table? And I’m going to ask you a question: Who was welcome at Jesus’ table? Everybody. If we’re going to have the table like Jesus, then we need to figure out how to get past some of this stuff.

And the last thing is this: Am I willing to commit this series to prayer? Am I willing to go home and pray about it? To take action in my life? To really say, “Hey, this is serious stuff,” and make sure I’m ready and willing to learn each weekend?”

I want you to just take this home. Because, over the next several weeks, we’re going to really talk about living an invitational life and we’re going to get some tools to learn how to do that. And it’s not going to be as difficult as you think it is. It’s really not. God gave us the provision and the power to be witnesses. We just need a little help and a little encouragement. And that’s what I want to do.

Because, I believe with all of my heart – and I’m not a prophet. I love Amos. He says, “I’m not a prophet, nor am I a son of a prophet.”

Chip Bennett can say, “I’m not a prophet and I’m the son of a dentist.”

So, that’s the way it is. I believe with all of my heart if we as a church can put the main thing as the main thing and we can learn to live invitational lives, I believe thousands of people over the next several years can be brought into the Kingdom of God. And you want to have a life change in your life? It’s when you are instrumental in being used by God to bring someone into the Kingdom of God. And you go out there with us and we get that horse trough out there and we put them under those waters of baptism. You will have an experience of a front row seat living that you never, ever, ever, ever thought that you could live.

And I believe if we can keep the main thing the main thing, I believe God can do some incredible things in our midst. So, let’s do that.

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I commit myself, this church and all of us to You. And I pray, Lord Jesus, that over the next several weeks we would really come to learn how to live an invitational life and, Lord, we would truly learn to keep the main thing the main thing. Lord, I pray that in Lakewood Ranch we would be a church that doesn’t have to show up on a Monday morning like I did and wonder what ever happened to Mark Putterman.

God, we have a change to seize the opportunity that You’ve given us here. A church that’s growing, a church that’s outreach focused, a church that’s in the community. Lord, if we can keep the main thing the main thing, Lord, it is probably incredible what You can do. So, Lord, we draw to You, we cling to You. Lord, we want to be a church about Jesus. And Jesus, we really want to lift You up because we know that when we lift You up and we proclaim Your praises, Lord, You draw people to You.

So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here today that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us. I pray that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I pray, Lord, that some of us would decide that we’re going to reach out this week and we’re going to drag some people back in and maybe we’ll have another Pisidian Antioch experience where we won’t even know where to put the people because they want to hear the good news.

We love You and thank You for it. In Christ’s name, and everybody said, “amen.”

Give the Lord a big hang clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.

Conflict Week 7: Unhealthy Conflict

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

Everyone knows conflict is part of life. There are some who tell stories of strength in relationships, marriages, churches and businesses because of conflict. But, the vast majority of stories seem to have another ending. Most people would love to hear a magic cure for conflict, but we all know that doesn't exist. Conflict even abounds throughout the pages of Scripture within people, between people, within groups and between groups. Sometimes it was handled in a godly fashion, but more often than not, it wasn't.

What if we could resolve conflict better? What if we could grow from it? What if we could learn from it? Maybe, just maybe, that starts now.

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We are finishing up a series called “Conflict.” If this is your first time, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, man. I’m coming in at the last part of a series.”

Don’t worry. Let me put you at ease. I always try to bring everybody back up to speed before I start to speak. We’ve been dealing with conflict. I mean, the title says it all. I think we all would agree that conflict sort of rears it’s ugly head in all kinds of places in our lives. Marriages, relationships, family meetings, jobs and even in church. In fact, and I want to say this before I say this next story, when I tell a story or if it’s a joke, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s theologically accurate. Okay? I just want to lay that out there so nobody sort of thinks that I’m half crazy.

But, I heard that conflict even exists in heaven. This pastor had passed away and when he awoke, he was there. He knew he was right there at the gates of heaven. And it was a little odd because there was a little podium outside of the gate and there was a guy standing behind it. Right in front of the pastor was another guy. Sort of a strange cat. He had this sort of Tommy Bahama shirt on. It was red with some yellow. He had on a pair of cutoff jeans. It looks like he’d had a pair of jeans that he’d worn for a long time and he had cut them off and they were sort of hanging the threads. He had on some sandals. The pastor could swear he smelt smoke.

The guy behind the podium says, “Name?”

He says, “Kevin Williams. I’m a taxi cab driver in New York City.”

The guy says, “Yep. You’re on the list,” and he goes back behind this little partition and comes back out with the most beautiful robe you have ever seen in your entire life and a 24-karat gold staff. And he says, “Come on in.”

The pastor’s like, “Oh, man. This is crazy.”

So, he goes up and the guy says, “Name?”

He says, “My name’s Joe Smith. Pastor of Saint Mary’s.”

He’s like, “Well, let’s see here. Yep. You’re on the list.”

He’s like, “Better be! I was a pastor.”

He says, “Well, hold on for a second.”

He goes back behind the partition and he brings out this mangled, wooden cane that looks like driftwood and hands it to him. The guy’s like, “Dude, there’s something wrong here. I was a pastor. The guy before me – I mean, you saw what it was and you saw what you gave him.”

The guy behind the podium says, “Hey. Calm down. You need to get something straight, dude. Up here in heaven, it’s all about results. And when you preached, people slept. When he drove, people prayed.”

So, there you go. Alright. So, we’re dealing with conflict, even up there in heaven. But, the reality is we’ve been dealing with some real and raw issues. We looked at marital conflict. Last week, we looked at some issues related conflict and how we handle those types of things. And this weekend we’re going to deal with something – it’s interesting. I actually said to somebody, one of the people that comes to Grace, what I was going to talk about this week and the response was, “That’s going to be interesting, because all I’ve ever heard about this type of stuff is just go pray about it. Nobody ever talks about this type of stuff.”

So, what we’re going to talk about this weekend is what happens when unhealthy meets conflict. When it’s not conflict that you can handle in your own strength. It’s not conflict that you can maybe wash somebody’s feet and it would be okay or get a Pastor involved and sit down and have a counseling session. This is the unhealthy conflict of life. And some of you are going, “Man, I’ve been waiting for this and I’ve got you. You’re with me.”

But, some of you are probably thinking, “Man, I don’t have any unhealthy conflict in my life.”

Hold on though. You probably know people who do. And, even if you don’t know anybody that has unhealthy conflict and you have no unhealthy conflict, hear the heart of your pastor. Make sure you hear me here. You want to put these tools in your toolbox, because you never know when that unhealthy conflict is going to happen.

So, I want everybody to really lean in here, because this is some tough stuff. When we talk about unhealthy conflict, what are we talking about? We’re talking about abuse.

“What do I do when I’m in a relationship, Chip, where I’m verbally abused on a regular basis? What do I do, Chip, when I’m in a relationship where there’s physical abuse? How do I handle that? What do I do as a Christian? How about estrangement, Chip? I’ve got a family member that I haven’t talked to for three years. I’ve got a dad that I don’t connect with. I’ve got a mom that I’m estranged with. I’ve got people that I used to be friends with that there’s now all kinds of conflict. How do I handle that? What do I do?”

How about, “What do I do with my ex? It’s tough. There’s no relationship.”

Maybe you have kids together and you do all that stuff. I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking, “Man, this slide is a bright ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.”

I know you’re thinking about that. But, we want to deal with real and raw issues here. We want to be able to deal with it. What do you do with this stuff? I mean, I’ve been in church a long time and I’ve never heard anybody deal about this stuff. This is stuff that we normally sidestep. We’re not going to sidestep any of this stuff because I believe, as your pastor, that it’s my job to equip you to live real life. I could get in here and get you excited and tell you about how good God is. There’s times and places for that. But, there’s also times and places to get real and raw about these situations. So, I want you to really listen and at least put some tools in our toolbox here to deal with this type of stuff.

Before I get there, I want to whet your appetite and get us all thinking a little bit about this idea of unhealthy conflict. There’s a story in the Bible. You all like when I tell the stories of the Bible. There’s a story in the Bible that I would say probably is the greatest case of unhealthy conflict. If it’s not, it’s definitely in the top three. It’s the story of David and the story of King Saul. There’s some real unhealthy conflict and there’s some real principles that we can see in this particular story.

Now, I’m of the opinion that to understand the Saul and David saga, you have to read larger than just the story that we normally know about David; the David and Goliath story. I mean, even if you’re here today and you’ve never been to church, you’ve probably heard David and Goliath at some point. If you’re watching via the internet or mobile app, you’re going, “I’ve heard David and Goliath.”

What I’d like to challenge you to do – listen, I want you to read your Bibles. I don’t care how you read your Bibles. I want you to read your Bibles. But, traditionally when we read our Bibles, we read them by story, by chapter or by a devotionally. And I think we miss the larger narrative when we do that. For instance, I’ll just share my own personal life. If I sit down to read the book of Acts, I want to read the book of Acts in its entirety; not separated up, read two chapters, two chapters, two chapters, two chapters. Because, what I find is is that I don’t see the flow of what Luke is doing.

So, I would encourage you in these stories, when we read them, that there’s maybe more going on than just the David and Goliath story. In fact, when we meet David, we meet David where Samuel the Prophet has come to anoint one of Jesse’s boys as king. Isn’t it interesting? We all know the song “Jesse’s Girl,” and the Bible has “Jesse’s Boy.”

So, Samuel comes to anoint David and nobody thinks that David should be anointed king. They just think he’s sort of this dude. Well, he anoints David and we start learning a little bit about David. We learn that David, in his life, is a young man that loves God and he has slain a bear and a lion. So, God has taken this young man and not only has He developed him spiritually, but He’s developed him in a very heroic way. Which means when the next stage of David’s development – which the first stage would be to conquer that bear and lion, the next stage was to conquer this guy, Goliath.

David had learned a lot of skills wrestling with those bigger animals. He learned that being at a distance from them was better than being up close. And better than getting in front of Goliath and wrestling with him, he used his sling and his stone and he cast it from a distance and struck this giant dead. And we see here at the story where the giant’s body is there and his head is severed from his body. Most of us read that story and we go, “Okay. That’s great. That’s fantastic.”

But, the writer of Samuel is writing deeper than that. David is being prepared at each stage to deal with an even bigger giant. The bigger giant that David’ going to have to deal with is King Saul. But, this giant is not going to be able to be taken out with heroism plus God. It’s only going to be able to be taken out with God only. God is preparing King David’s heart to be at a place where he trusts God above everything else. Even his own skills. Because, God knows that he’s really going to face the biggest giant later in his life when he’s on his rooftop and he sees Bathsheba. Unfortunately, he fails in those moments and he goes back to using all of his skills and talents on how he can get rid of Uriah and how he can get rid of all the stuff.

God is in the process during that. And we see the story of Saul. When Saul is killed, what happens? His head is severed from his body. This is all written together. It’s a wonderful story and it’s showing us how David is being prepared by God to deal with these giants that he faces. One of the big giants he faces is this unhealthy conflict with Saul that he cannot solve in his own strength. He’s going to have to listen to the Lord and trust God.

So, let’s join the story here and see what’s going on. I think we’ll get some really good stuff from it. We’re going to read out of 1 Samuel 18 and then I’m going to jump to 22 here in a minute.

It says, “So David went out wherever Saul sent him.”

David was a good guy. David honored Saul. You know, one of the – and this is not part of the message, but just something I want to share sort of as a side. One of the things that we fail, in my opinion, as Christians, to do is to realize that when God has put people over us, we’re not serving them to serve them. We’re serving God by serving them. David caught that concept. He went out wherever Saul sent him. And look at what happened. He prospered.

See, a lot of times we think of the person above us and we can’t stand them or whatever and so on and so forth. But, we’re called as Christians to treat those that are above us in the best way that we can because we ultimately are serving God, not them. David got that and he prospered.

“Saul sent him over the men of war and it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.”

Now, when you’re reading this, you should go, “Okay. Let’s see. The people liked it. Saul’s servants liked it. There’s something that’s missing there. It doesn’t say that Saul liked it. Okay? And when you’re reading that, you’re getting setup here for what is going to happen.

It says, “So it happened.”

And I can tell you I’ve lived life long enough to tell you that it happens.

“It happened, as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet the King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments.”

This would be very common for a king coming back from war for the women to come out and sing and dance and shout and all of that. And all of this is normal until we get to the next verse here where it’s like the proverbial record just gets scratched and you know that something is going to happen.

“The women sang as they played and said, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’”

All of a sudden you know probably Saul is not going to like that verse in the song, right?

So, it says here, “Saul became very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, but to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?’”

“This guy’s going to take my job. This guy’s going to take my kingship.”

“So Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on.”

And then the story sort of picks up and we see that Saul has so much hatred for David that he wants to kill him. And he starts putting David into war positions to where he should die, but he doesn’t. He says to David, “Hey, you like my daughter?”

And David’s like, “Your daughter is hot.”

That’s not in the Bible. I promise. I was trying to keep your attention here. You’ll be like, “Is that in the Bible? Where was that at in 1 Samuel?”

It’s not. It’s not even in the Hebrew. But, Saul says, “You like my daughter?”

He says, “I like your daughter.”

He says, “Well, here’s what you can do. If you want my daughter, I want you to go out and collect 100 foreskins from some Philistines.”

Can I tell you something? I don’t care how bad your boss is. No matter how bad your boss is, your boss ain’t never told you to go get 100 foreskins from some Philistines. Alright? I mean, this guy is a bad dude. And what does David do? David comes back with 200. David is a good man. He’s showing his honoring of Saul. Well, Saul’s just irritated and can’t stand him. Not like where nobody’s looking. At dinner Saul will pick up a spear and throw it at David to pin him to the wall and to kill him in front of everybody.

I mean, it’s a hostile environment. I mean, this thing is bad. It’s ugly. It is an unhealthy conflict. It’s so bad that David realizes that every time he stands up, Saul may throw the spear at him and hit him. And what we find here in the next couple of chapters later is David departed from there and escaped to the cave. David realized, “I can’t really stay in this relationship. I’ve got to do something because this is going to kill me if I stay here.”

What I want to do is I want you to get out a sheet of paper or your iPads or however you take some notes and I really would encourage you to write these things down. Because, I want to give you some real tools for unhealthy relationships.

“What do I do, Chip, in an unhealthy relationship? Can you give me any help at all?”

That’s what I’m trying to do here and I think these are things that we can take with us today that will make a difference in our lives. The first thing I would tell you is that unhealthy conflict isn’t always ownable. You probably think, “What does that mean?”

Let me explain. I used to run a business. If you’ve ever run a business or you’ve been in business or even if you’re in a church, there’s always problems. Something doesn’t happen. We’re humans. We fail at some level. So, what I would always do is I would bring in people that work for me and I would say, “What part of the problem can we own? What can we own about this?”

And we would sit down and talk about what we had done wrong as a company and what we could do to fix our part of the problem. So, when we’re in relationships, we can all agree that many times we need to own our part. In other words, there’s something that we need to do, something that we need to take hold of, something that we need to say, “Hey, this is something I need to take responsibility for.”

To do that, the best prayer in the Bible to pray at that time is Psalm 139. “Search me, O God. Know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there’d be any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way. God, show me what is going on in my heart.”

However, in some of the unhealthy conflicts that we find ourselves in, it’s beyond our control. It’s not ownable. David couldn’t own what was going on in this relationship. He couldn’t. Because, he didn’t go to the girls and say, “Hey, when we come in and we’re riding the horses on the way in, will you all say that I’ve killed ten thousand and he’s only killed a thousand?”

He could own that. He didn’t do that. He didn’t go against Saul. In fact, he loved Saul. He didn’t try to usurp Saul’s throne. He served him in every way. There was nothing about the unhealthy conflict that David found himself in that he could rightly own. It was beyond him at this point. And many of you are there. You’re in a relationship and you just don’t know what else I can do. I’ve made the phone call. I’ve sent the email. I’ve said the prayers. I’ve done all that I can do and I keep going after this unhealthy relationship. I keep trying in so many ways and I keep getting disappointed and I keep getting hurt and I keep getting stepped on.

I want to tell you as your pastor – I want to give you some permission here and I want to give you some grace. There’s some relationships that you find yourself in that you just can’t own and you just need to be okay with that. It’s okay. It’s beyond your control. And oftentimes we have these relationships and because we’re Christians, we want to do everything that we can. But, we keep trying and trying and we keep getting hurt and hurt. Sometimes we’ve got to step back and say, “You know what? In some of these unhealthy relationships, I can’t own it.”

The second thing I would tell you is even though you might not be able to own some of this stuff, unhealthy conflict is an opportunity for God to work in you and me. One of the things we see about David is even though he couldn’t change Saul, even though he couldn’t work with Saul, even though he tried to honor Saul, he had to get out of town. But, what God did in David’s heart in that process was unbelievable. He created in David a heart after God.

Would you believe that the majority of the Psalms that you and I read – in fact, the Psalms are the most read part of the Bible throughout the world. We read the Psalms because we can relate. There are times of questioning and hurt. Those Psalms were penned while David was on the run from Saul. They’re beautiful because David is questioning things. God is working in David’s heart. So, when we have this unhealthy conflict, even though maybe we can’t change it or we can’t control it or we can’t own all of it, what we can do is say, “God, what are you doing in me?”

See, Paul realizes this. Paul says, “The sufferings of this present time, all the junk that goes on in our lives, are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to you and me.”

The stories of the patriarchs, the stories of the people in the Bible are the stories of people that had difficulties, but God always came through as a champ. You see, Joseph doesn’t understand why he’s being sold by his brothers to Egypt. He doesn’t understand why Potiphar’s wife is lying about him. He doesn’t understand why he gets thrown in prison. But, at one point in Genesis 50, he looks back and he realizes that God’s hand of providence was in all of the sufferings and all of the junk to lead him to the place that he was at that point.

It’s the story of creation. When God comes upon the world, what is it? It’s a briny sea. It’s dark. There’s no life. It’s without form and it’s voidless. And what does He do? Well, He hovers with His Spirit. He speaks His word and light shines on the world and He starts to create this beautiful creation.

That’s why Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, that you and me are a new creation in Christ Jesus. God is taking all of the difficulties in our lives and He is shaping them and forming them into something beautiful. The reason we can endure difficulty as Christians is because we know the end of the story. See, if there’s no end of the story, if there is now God, if this world is all that there is, then we’ve got to do everything that we can to get out of despair and distress the moment we get into it. But, if we’re Christians, we can endure the sufferings of the present time because we know that there is a glory to be revealed. That’s one of the great Christian hopes of all time is that we know what the end of the story says. And the end of the story is going to end the way the end of the story is.

It’s like me. I love, love, love Kentucky basketball. I love Kentucky basketball. And anybody who’s a Christian would. I’m just kidding. But, I love Kentucky basketball and there’s those games where you were down but you’ve recorded them and you know that you win. Those are so much better to watch than the ones when you’re down and you don’t know the outcome. You follow what I’m saying? We know the outcome, folks. And that’s why we can have hope and we can say, “God, download into me what’s going on.”

So, when we’re going through these things, we can say, “God, what can I learn from this? I mean, I can’t control this. I can’t own all this. He’s throwing spears at me. There’s not a whole lot I can do. I don’t want to get speared. But, what can I learn? Is there something I can learn from this? Maybe I can learn that I have an opportunity, when I’m going to be king, of being the best spear thrower in the kingdom or being the one that’s known for being a person after God’s own heart. What can I learn from this? God, who can I help with this? Would there be somebody that I could maybe help? Is there somebody I could maybe teach later on in life? Or, God, how about this? Could this potentially work out with a great testimony? Is it possible? It doesn’t work out for David and Saul. Saul’s killed. It ends up in a bad way. But, God, is it possible? Is it possible that it could possibly work out with hope?”

Let me tell you something. What the world is looking for today more than anything is hope. They want to believe that there’s something more, and we have the greatest message of all. And if we approach the unhealthy conflict with some of these questions and with the potential for hope, it’ll make a big difference.

In fact, talking about hope, there was a plane that was going down. On the plane, there were four people that were left and three parachutes. One guy said, “Hey, guys. I’m a cardiologist. My patients need me.”

He grabbed one and jumped out of the plane. The next guy says, “Well, hey. Guys, I’m a rocket scientist. I’m probably the smartest guy in the world. My country needs me.”

He grabbed one and jumped out. Well, it left two guys. One was an older aged pastor. The other was a 10-year-old boy dressed in a Boy Scout uniform. The pastor looked at the young boy and said, “Listen. I’m an older man. I know the Lord. I know I’m going to go to heaven. Take the parachute and save yourself.”

The Boy Scout looks up at him and is like, “Pastor? Today is our day, buddy. We’ve got some hope. You know rocket scientist? Smartest guy in the world? He jumped out with my backpack.”

Sometimes we need some hope, right?

Third – and this is a big one. This is a big one for us to get. Unhealthy conflict usually tells us more about our relationship with God than anything else. This is a great barometer when you’re going through these times of real difficulty. It really shows us who we are as Christians, because we’re called to love, right? We’re called to be people that are people of love. And we’ve said over and over in this series that love has two sides to it. And we can disagree over the words, but I think the categories are there. Love has the side that is accepting. It’s like, “Hey, you’re my son and I love you even though you flunked out of school. I still love you. I don’t like that you flunked, but I still love you. I love you because I accept you.”

But then there’s the part of the tough love. “If you don’t get your act together, though, then I’m going to have to come in here and do these things.”

So, love always sort of has this balance of being accepting and also having the time where you say, “Hey, I love you enough not to let you do that. I love you enough not to see you do that.”

The problem is that when we get in unhealthy conflict, trying to keep these things together becomes difficult and we usually flip to one side more than the other and we go deficient in that side. So, on tough love what happens is we get so angry and upset that we end up, at times, hating the person. So, “I told them not to do this. I said not to do this.”

And then what happens is because they don’t do it you get frustrated, you get angry and you find yourself burning in rage against that person. And at that point, we just need a healthy dose of 1 John. If someone says I love God and hates his brother, he’s a liar. That’s not where we go. For the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen can’t love God whom he has not seen.

And this commandment that we have from him that the one that loves God should love his brother also. So, we see here as Christians that we can’t go deficient in the tough spot. But, I will tell you most Christians don’t go deficient there. They go deficient on the accepting side and what they do is they create a license. They create a license to just continue to do the same old thing and the same old thing every time. And you see if oftentimes when I counsel people. They’ll say, “Listen. I’m in this relationship. It’s broken. I don’t know what to do. I’ve sent letters. They never respond. I make a phone call. It’s ugly. I try this.”

And it’s like they just keep going back and going back and going back. And all they’re doing is creating the other person to have a license to continue to do the same things and they continue to get hurt. So, I’m speaking to a lot of you when I say this: Love is not gladly accepting unhealthy. God has not asked you to sign up to go, “Okay. Every time I try to be nice, I get beat up. But, I’m going to go do it again because that’s what love looks like.”

That’s not true. That’s absolutely, categorically untrue. And I want to make a partition between something. When you and I are called to go out and preach about Jesus, and by preaching Jesus we are persecuted, then yes. We go to the point of death without resistance. That’s clearly in Scripture. But, in interpersonal relationships, God has not called us to be a doormat. God is not saying you need to gladly accept unhealthy. Love is not putting yourself out for whatever unhealthy it is again and again and again.

And I find so many people will say, “But, I just want this relationship to get fixed.”

Okay. That’s the problem. The problem is you’re wanting it to get fixed rather than wanting to look like God in the relationship. And love is not putting yourself out to get hurt again, again, again, again, and again. Because then what you’re doing is you’re taking the accepting side of love and you’re going deficient and you’re creating a license for that person to do the things that they do. And that’s not healthy for them or for you and it doesn’t provide an opportunity for you both to have a realistic opportunity to see God work in your life.

Which is why the fourth thing is that sometimes you simply have to create boundaries. And we Christians just don’t like that term. Because we go, “But, aren’t we supposed to love?”

Yes.

“Aren’t we supposed to turn the other cheek?”

Absolutely.

“Aren’t we supposed to forgive?”

Absolutely. But, sometimes you’ve got to do what David did. David departed from there and escaped to a cave. He realized – and, you know, when I was putting this together and I was praying over this because I knew this was going to be real sensitive for people here at church. I knew there are people that are really struggling with stuff. I have an iPad. It’s funny. They call me PC, but I use Mac products. So, I’ve got my iPad out and I’ve got my pen and I penned this on one of my apps and I thought this was profound:

“God never intended for David to throw spears back at Saul, but He also never intended for David to continually place himself in the path of the spear.”

I want you to hear that. God didn’t intend for David to pick the spear back up. That’s not what we do. We don’t throw spears back. But, he didn’t intend for David to stay there to where eventually he was going to get pinned to the wall. It’s really hard to have a devotional when you’re looking for the spear that’s coming next. It’s really hard to have a real attitude of prayer when you are having to look for the spear that’s coming.

See, David leaving was David trying to do his best to give Saul an opportunity to come to his sense. But, more importantly, it was a place for David to go that would help him continue in his relationship with God. And sometimes in unhealthy relationships we need some boundaries. In fact, I would tell you this: Boundaries show that you respect you. There’s nothing wrong with that. I know people say, “Well, aren’t I supposed to be giving?”

Yes.

“Aren’t I supposed to be turning the other cheek?”

Yes.

“Aren’t I supposed to be loving towards my brother?”

Yes. But, that doesn’t mean that you do it to the detriment of where you have no value. I want to speak to you this morning and let you know something: You have value and you have dignity. You are created in the image of God. You are God’s son and daughter. You’ve been redeemed, not by gold but by the precious blood of the Lamb. You are a royal priesthood. You’re a chosen generation. I mean, you matter to God. You know? Some of you are like, “Yeah. Alright.”

Others of you are trying to figure it out. It’s okay to clap here at Grace. I don’t know. Is it in the bulletin: “Don’t clap while the preacher speaks?” I’m not quite sure. We need to get that out of there. But, the point is you matter. And sometimes it’s okay to say, “You know what? I need to put a boundary because I do respect myself.”

And can I tell you something? You can’t give something that you don’t have. You can’t turn the cheek that you don’t have. You can’t love the enemy if you’re not around. Sometimes you just need to respect you and let that happen. The second thing I would tell you is that boundaries help you decide beforehand what you’re going to tolerate. This is something that we don’t think through often, but it’s the truth. Sometimes we get ourselves in situations where we get really hurt and beat up because we haven’t decided beforehand, “Hey, I’m not taking this anymore.”

Have you ever noticed – I’ll jump to another subject. Have you ever noticed that when you don’t have a budget and you don’t pay any attention to what is in your bank account how you tend to not do very well with your money? Anybody ever notice that one? Money talks, right? It says “goodbye.” You ever notice that?

See, sometimes we’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do before we do it so that we make really good decision. Boundaries help you decide beforehand what you’re going to tolerate.

“I’m not doing this anymore. I’m not going to do this and have this result anymore, because it doesn’t help anybody. It doesn’t help them because it just continues to let them do the things that they’re doing, and that’s not healthy. And it continues to hurt me, and that’s not healthy.”

So, it helps me decide beforehand what I’ll tolerate. Boundaries also aren’t to punish others. We don’t create boundaries like, “Ha. I’m going to get you back, man. You’re scum.”

That’s not biblical Christianity. They’re not there to hurt anybody. They’re there to protect you. I mean, I’ve seen so many people that have so many bad relationships with people and they keep putting themselves out and they mean so well but they keep getting beat up and hurt and discouraged and despondent and depressed because they keep trying.

Boundaries that say, “Hey, I’m going to respect myself and I’m going to decide beforehand what I’m going to tolerate,” – what they do is they protect you. Ultimately, because they protect you, they don’t just provide opportunities for others to change, they provide space for you and me to grow. Oftentimes, we can’t grow in the middle of dysfunction. We can’t grow in the middle of problems. We can to some degree, but you can’t grow when you’ve got spears being chucked at you. You’ve got to get out of that place for a little bit to figure out what’s going to go on in your life and how God can process that in your life.

And I want to give you some permission. Not to be difficult, not to be prideful, not to be arrogant about it. But, I want to give some of you some permission to set some boundaries in these unhealthy relationships, because they’ll not only allow the other person to have an opportunity to change, but they will allow you to have an opportunity to grow. And that’s huge.

Here’s what I want to do. I know many of you have unhealthy conflict in your life and I know many of you know people that do have unhealthy conflict in their life. I want to just pause for a minute and I want to pray. I want to pray for you and I want to pray for those people that you know, because I believe that God can do a great work in our lives and in our church with this issue. Let’s bow our hands, if you would.

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You humbly. Lord, I not only pray for those that are here right now in the immediate hearing of my voice, but I pray, Lord, for the literally hundreds and thousands that watch these videos online as well and on the mobile app that is there listening and watching. This prayer’s for them as well.

Lord, unhealthy conflict is a part of many of our lives. Lord, many of us are struggling right now with how to handle that estranged relationship or the abuse or how do we handle the ex. God, I pray right now in Jesus’ name that some of the things that were shared today would help them in some small way to move forward and to learn how to navigate these difficult, difficult subjects of life. Lord, I believe that You, through this series here at Grace, are creating a church that can seize conflict for You. Not only in our midst, but in our communities.

Lord, I believe we’ve got some tools for our toolbox to be able to navigate in a way that we’ve never navigated before the conflict of our lives. And I pray, Lord Jesus, right now, for Your glory and for Your honor, for those that are in unhealthy conflict or those that know people that are. Lord, I pray in Jesus’ name that You would bring some download and some help and some comfort. And ultimately, Lord, I pray that we would draw strength from Your Word and realize that sometimes we simply need to get away for a little while so that You can work in both parties.

And Lord, I pray that if there is conflict in Your house today or that those that are watching online, Lord, I pray in Jesus’ name that You would bring some strength, peace, grace and victory in their lives for Your glory and for Your honor. Lord, we love You and we thank You. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Can we give the Lord a big hand clap for His goodness and His mercy?

I truly hope that this series has been beneficial to you. I’ve done my best to try to give you some good, practical advice that’s biblical. I really hope that as a church we’ll see that God is really calling us to do some great things. God really, I believe, has put us here to reach this town in a positive way and in a way maybe that they’ve not seen before. Let’s seize that moment. I just would, once again – please think about this coming weekend as we start a new series. There’s never a better time to bring somebody in than at the beginning of a series. That person that maybe you’ve been struggling with or thinking about? Invite them. What do you have to lose, you know? Just ask them. Say, “Hey, come on.”

Buy them lunch afterwards. You know? Do something different. Tell them you’ll go to a movie with them. Whatever you’ve got to do. But, let’s do something great for the Kingdom of God. God’s done some great things for us. Let’s return the favor. I believe that we can turn Lakewood Ranch upside down. I believe that there can be a book somewhere in history that’s written later on in life that says, “Man, there was this great move of God that swept this city called Lakewood Ranch,” and I want to be a part of that. I believe you do too.

So, let’s take the truths that we’ve learned in this series and let’s try to put them in our lives. If you would, I want to close with a word of prayer and we’ll get out of here.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your goodness and Your mercy. Thank You, Lord, for leading us and guiding us in every step of our lives. I pray, God, that You’d bring us back safety to when we meet again. Help us, Lord, to seize the moment and invite maybe that friend or family member as we start a new series next weekend.

Lord, thank You for this series. Thank You for what you’ve taught us. Thank You for what you’re doing in our life and our church and in our city. Lord, we just love You and thank You for it. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.

Conflict Week 6: Political Issues

Sermon Transcript

Everyone knows conflict is part of life. There are some who tell stories of strength in relationships, marriages, churches and businesses because of conflict. But, the vast majority of stories seem to have another ending. Most people would love to hear a magic cure for conflict, but we all know that doesn't exist. Conflict even abounds throughout the pages of Scripture within people, between people, within groups and between groups. Sometimes it was handled in a godly fashion, but more often than not, it wasn't.

What if we could resolve conflict better? What if we could grow from it? What if we could learn from it? Maybe, just maybe, that starts now.
[End Video]
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Conflict” and we’ve been going a little bit longer than we had originally anticipated by about three weeks. The feedback that I’ve got though is that you all have really enjoyed this series. So, please keep telling me that because the longer I go I need to keep hearing that it’s good stuff because I don’t want to keep going and y’all go, “This is terrible.”
So, anyway, those via the internet and mobile app, you can’t really say anything. I guess you could email. But, email good things. We like good things. I’m just kidding.
Anyway, we’re dealing with this area of conflict, and conflict’s real. It’s real in all of our lives. You know, we experience it in many different ways. We experience it in families, jobs, church and all kinds of places. The whole idea behind this series was to give us each maybe a few more tools in our toolbox so that we could handle this a little bit better. And we’ve dealt with a lot of different things. We’ve looked at biblical stuff. We’ve looked at what Jesus said about conflict and Paul said about conflict. And now we’re in that part where I call it sort of the real and raw, what do we do when it’s this particular stuff and these things in our lives.
Last week, we talked about marital conflict. That’s a real issue. This weekend, we are going to talk about issue related conflict. And, you know, let’s be honest here: Conflict is pretty much everywhere, and we know that. It reminds me of a story where there was a husband and wife that were celebrating their 30th anniversary. They had gone back to their house after they had celebrated their 30th anniversary and the wife said, “You know, honey, we’ve been so blessed. God’s been so good to us. I think we just ought to pray and thank God.”
And he said, “Oh, I think that’s a great idea.”
So, they got down on their knees next to their bed and they started praying. While they were praying, all of a sudden this real bright light appeared in the bedroom and they opened their eyes and it was an angel. The angel said, “The Lord has heard your prayers and He’s going to give you each a wish.”
They were like, “Whoa!”
The wife said, “This is awesome. What I wish for is that I could travel the world with my husband.”
She had no sooner got those words out then all of a sudden tickets on planes and cruises started appearing in the room. And she just started crying. She’s like, “I can’t believe this.”
And the angel looked at the guy and he sort of whispered, “I wish I had a wife that was 30 years younger than me.”
And, all of a sudden, poof, he was 90 years old. So, there you go. There was some conflict in that house that night, by the way. 
That’s a little far-fetched. How about this one here? There was a lady that had invited some people over to her house sort of like a Grace Supper Club, you know? And it was time to pray and she wanted to impress the people that were over. And she said to her five-year-old daughter, “Why don’t you say the blessing?”
And the five-year-old daughter said, “I don’t know what to say.”
And she said, “Honey, just say what mommy says.” 

And she says, “Okay.”
So, they bowed their heads.
She said, “Lord, we don’t know why we brought these people over for dinner tonight.”
So, there you go. There’s conflict there. So, now that you’re good and laughing and having a good time, let’s talk about some real issues and some stuff that goes on in our lives. And when I say issues, I think most of us understand that there’s a lot of issues floating around. But, let me try to get it as real as I can be so that we’re all on the same page. There’s causes. You see it all the time. Hashtag this or that or whatever. There’s marches. I mean, there’s marches all the time for different things. Let’s create awareness about stuff and everything. There’s agendas and movements and all of this stuff.
And I’d like to put all of this under the umbrella of what I call political issues. And this is a real serious problem right now in our country, and I can’t tell you sincerely whether it’s more today than it’s ever been, I just know that we get more information today than we’ve ever got. So, it feels for sure that this stuff just buzzes around and goes all over the place and everything else.
So, how do we deal with is? What do we do with all of these political issues? How are we Christians in the midst of all of this? And let me tell you something. A couple of things. Number one: This is a real serious issue, because there are a group of people called “the Nones.” They have grown from about 2% to about 12% when people are talked to about their religious experience. These are people that say we believe there’s a God. These are people that say we believe that Jesus is real. And these are people that say, “You know what? I believe the Bible has something to say to us.”
But, these are people that say, “I will not go into a church again.”
The reason they don’t want to go into a church is because they feel like the church in America, the evangelical church, has become politically affiliated in such a way that they no longer feel that they have a place at the table. They feel like their concerns for the poor and the disenfranchised and the people that are on the margins of society are no longer respected anymore in churches at all. So, they don’t feel like they can speak up. And when they speak up, they’re branded a certain way and oftentimes they’re told they’re not Christians.
So, it’s imperative, if we’re going to reach the people that are outside of the four walls of this church, that we don’t get involved to where the church becomes a political entity. And I want to thank you all at Grace Community Church because I can tell you this: Since we’ve been here in Lakewood Ranch, we’ve never deviated from the fact of what we do. We’ve never become a politically motived and issue-driven church. We’ve always talked about Jesus, reaching the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ, and we’re making a difference and you should be proud of yourselves for not getting bogged down. And we’re attracting people from all kinds of different groups because we’re putting Jesus first.
And we want to continue to do that. But, the reality is that many people struggle with this.
“What do I do? I get frustrated. I see stuff. Sometimes I initiate the conflict around people. Sometimes people initiate the conflict with me. What do I do with all of these political things?” 
So, what I want to do is I want to talk to you in a real and raw way to give you some help to deal with this stuff and hopefully help to keep our church keeping the main thing the main thing. And I’m hoping that we can sort of save this message and pass it on to many people that come over the years to keep them focused so that we continue to do the main thing which is to life Jesus Christ up above all things, because he’s the only one that can ultimately change a life anyway.
So, what I want to do is I want to talk to you about what I sort of – when I wrote this message and put it together, some things I’ve learned along the way. And this is just stuff that Chip Bennett can share with you. I do have biblical references. But, it’s things that I have just sort of learned as I’ve lived through life. Because, I can tell you at one point in my life, back in my early 20’s, I was a very, very, very involved, political young man. I realized over the years that I had put a lot of time and energy into things that didn’t matter as much as being a Christian that was focused upon the Lord Jesus.
So, if you have a sheet of paper or if you take notes or if you have a phone that you type stuff into or an iPad, I would ask you to take some notes here. And I want to say upfront that you are more than welcome to disagree with me on the things that I say. That’s fine. You’ll come to realize that I’m telling you the truth in about a week or two, but that’s okay. I’m just kidding.
But, I say that to say that, look, these are real issues and I want to be able to speak into it. We’re talking about conflict. There’s a lot of conflict. People don’t know how to handle these issues. What do we do? And I just want to share, from my heart, and be open and honest with you all about some things I’ve learned along the way. And I think they’ll be things that help us all out.
The first thing that I’ve learned is to not mistake political action for Christian mission. This is big time. Because, it’s so easy, right? You know? You’ve got Jesus and baseball and apple pie and all of that stuff. It goes into a blender and it sort of all gets blended up and, all of a sudden, everything sort of gets blurry and we forget what we’re doing or how we’re doing it. All of a sudden, we get thinking that if we’re dealing with this political thing we’re doing the Jesus thing and all of that stuff. I guess the way I would say it to make it easier to understand is don’t hitch your identity to a political entity.
Our identity as Christians should be known for Jesus, not for issues. When people know us for issues, we’re polarizing many people. If we’re going to offend and we’re going to push people away, it should be because we proclaim the Gospel, not because we try to shove political things down people’s throats.
Let’s go with what Jesus says. Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”
This is what He asked us to do. He says, “Hey, guys. Come together. We’re going to get on the mountain. This is sort of what I want the Church to be doing. I want you to go make disciples of all the nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I’ve commanded you. Make some disciples, baptize them, and then tell them what it is that they signed up to do. Go do that.”
We need to be people that are out making disciples, not promoting political issues. Because, what happens is, when we promote all that political stuff, what we do is we sort of push away a third or a quarter or half of a group of people that don’t agree with us on that issue. If we’re going to tell them something, let’s make sure that we tell them about Jesus. Because, here’s the deal. Is our goal to change their minds or to see Jesus change their life? That’s huge. And, sometimes, we need that focus. Sometimes we need somebody to stand up and say, “Hey, let’s keep the main thing the main thing.”
“I know there’s all the stuff going on out there. What do I do? How do I handle it?”
Well, the first thing is don’t confuse the political stuff with the Christian mission. The Christian mission is for you and me to go make disciples, and disciples aren’t made by telling them to vote a certain way or to act a certain way. Disciples are made by being confronted with the claims of who Jesus is. If they meet Jesus, their lives will be different. If they agree with us on a political issue, their lives will be different in terms of what they think. But, their lives will not be eternally settled. And I want to make sure that it is difficult as can be to go to hell in Lakewood Ranch because I want to lift up Jesus in everything that we do so that people know how their lives could be changed by Jesus Christ. Amen?
Second thing: It’s okay to have disagreements within the body over how we deal with these issues. And this is really tough for Christians. Really tough. Because, everybody wants a black and white. Everybody wants an absolute on something. They don’t like grey areas. We don’t like it when people disagree. We want to tell them the way it is and so on and so forth. Let’s take an issue. We’ll use alcohol. I think everybody in here would agree that it’s probably not good to be drunk in a ditch.
We’d go, “Okay. I agree with that.”
Okay. That’s pretty good. We all agree on that. Okay. But, how we handle that issue, we’re going to disagree. Because, some of you are going to go, “I’m a teetotaler. I’m absolutely not drinking at all. I’m not going to create anybody to stumble. I’m not going to do that at all. I’m a teetotaler and that’s what the Bible says.”
Somebody else is going to come along and go, “Hey, Jesus drank wine. So, what was wrong with Him and why did Paul tell Timothy to use a little wine for his stomach?”
I love that. Paul’s like, “You can’t quit ministry. You can drink a little bit of wine for your stomach, but you can’t quit ministry because you’re called.”
Isn’t that great? That’s just great advice, isn’t it? Drink some wine, but you can’t give up. You’ve got to keep going for Jesus. But, we’re going to disagree on that. And you know what? It’s okay. It’s okay. Jesus provided wine for a wedding. You ought to go home and read John 2. They were drunk and Jesus provided them more wine. We should think through those issues. You know, we’ve got all these people and then all of a sudden you’re confronted with Scripture and you start going, “Why? Why would He do that?”
Maybe there’s a time where celebration is okay. Maybe there’s times where it’s okay to cut loose a little bit and have a good time. But, maybe we’re not supposed to be doing that all the time. Maybe there’s times and places. But, here’s the thing: It’s okay. We’re going to disagree. And if we can’t create a culture where people can come in with a little bit different opinions, then all we’re going to do is create a cookie cutter church that looks just like the way we want it to look. And that way we’re going to push away about 50% of the people that could come to Jesus.
And let me tell you this: I want every Republican, every Democrat, every Libertarian, every person that hates politics. I want everybody in this town and in this church lifting up Jesus Christ in every way possible. So, it’s okay.
This might blow your mind here. This might be a real mind blower for you. In the first century, Paul wrote to a church at Rome, and they had some issues going on. One of the issues was some of the people were Jewish that had become Christians and they were like, “Hey, we worship on the Sabbath, man. I mean, that’s Moses. Do we need to take you back to the first five books? It’s the Sabbath. We worship this day.”
The Gentiles were like, “Seriously? We’re going to worship Jesus every day. That’s what we’re going to do.”
And there was a fight. And then there was a fight over meat sacrificed to idols. You know?
“I’m not going to eat the Satan sirloin and I’m not going to eat the Beelzebub filet. I’m not going to do that because I just feel like I shouldn’t do that.”
Other people were like, “Who cares, man? Those people. God’s God. Chow down. Ponderosa in Jesus’ name, baby.”
You know? And they fought about it. Paul said, “Some are weak and some are strong. The strong are the ones that can worship any day. The strong are the ones that ate the meat.”
But, here’s what he says to the strong. Listen to what he says, because this is huge. Because, if you were the one reading Scripture going, “The Bible says worship on the Sabbath,” this is what Paul says into that world.
He says, “Accept the one who’s weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.”
Did you hear what he just said the person that was saying, “Let me tell you what the Bible says here about the day?”
He says, “That’s just an opinion, man. Stop it. It’s okay to have some disagreement. Let’s not get all bent out of shape about the way we’re handling the issue. The issue is that we worship God. That’s the issue. How we handle that issue is an opinion.”
And so many people get bogged down in this. And I told you I was going to get real and raw. I mean, it was great last night. I had some Bayside students that I teach. They were like, “Man, when you started talking about this, I put my fingernails in my mouth and started going, ‘How’s he going to handle this one? This is going to be good.’”
So, get your popcorn out and get ready for a rodeo here, because we’re probably going to lose about 12 people here today. But, anyway, I’m just joking. But, I asked you all. I said you could send in some emails and questions about things, and this is what I got.
A person wrote in and said, “Hey, Chip. I’d like to get some advice. I have a family member who is gay and they’re having a wedding with their partner and they have invited me to come. What should I do? How should I handle this? Because, I feel if I go that I’m condoning it. But, can you give me some help?”
Some of y’all are going, “Man, this is going to get good right now. Right?”
People are like, “Man, alright. Chip’s going to run off about half the people right now.”
No. I want to give you the answer here. This is the answer. I’ll get to the answer here, but this is the answer. Jesus told you and me, “Here’s the commandment I give to you: That you love one another even as I have loved you.”
The overarching thing that we do is we love people like Jesus loved people, that you also love one another. And listen to what He says here:
“By this, by the way you love people, all men will know that you’re my disciples if you have loved on another.”
You say, “Well, what’s the answer? Should he go or should he not go?”
The answer is there isn’t a perfect answer. And this is where I say that we have to learn to understand that how we handle issues is going to be different. Because, we’re supposed to love people. And here’s the reality with love: Love can say, “I think this is a bad decision that you’re making, but I love you and I’m willing to tell you in a tough way that this is something that shouldn’t be done.”
Many of you all feel that way about issues. There’s other people that say, “Man, I’m not letting that get in the way of me loving that person and I’m going to go because I’m not condoning anything. I’m showing them that I love them in the love of Christ.”
So, see, you could go or not go and be okay. But, you really want to have a mind trip? Both of those could be wrong at the same time as well. Because, if you’re the person that goes, “Well, I’m going to love them because I don’t want anybody to get mad at me for anything. I just want everybody like me and I don’t want to create any problems with the Gospel or anything like that,” then you’ve gone for the wrong reasons because you’re not loving them, you’ve got an issue with people liking you.
Well, hold on, now, for some of you all on the other side. Y’all like to judge things and say, “That’s wrong.” And there ain’t no love in that. You’re just passing judgment and you would be wrong if you didn’t go for that reason as well. So, the answer is we can agree to disagree on how we handle issues, and let’s be okay with it. Because, in the church, if we’re going to grow, it’s not about getting a check mark according to all the things that we like. The Philippians Jailer, when he came to Paul and said, “Hey, I want to get saved, man,” Paul didn’t say, “Okay, well. You’ve got to go to this church down the street, you’ve got to vote this way, and you can’t go to that wedding, and you can’t do this and you’ll be in.”
He didn’t say that. He said, “Believe on Jesus and you’ll be saved.”
And we want to add everything else to it, don’t we? Jesus plus. Jesus plus. Jesus plus. Let me tell you something: Jesus Christ and belief in Him that He rose from the grave on the third day is what gets you in to the Kingdom of God, and let’s not add a bunch of junk to it.
Third: We’re called to unity in Christ, not uniformity on issues. And, man, that’s what we want. We want our pastors to tow the line that we want towed. When, in reality, it’s really about unity. This is something I think nobody reads this stuff. It’s funny because I said this last night and people were like, “Man, I knew that but I didn’t know that.”
Jesus called one of His disciples whose name was Levi. He was a tax collector. He called another disciple named Simon who was a zealot. Let me tell you you could not have been further on the political spectrum than a tax collector and a zealot. A tax collector collected for the country of Rome and the citizenry of Rome. Zealots wanted to kill Romans. What brought them together? Their issues? No. What brought them together was Jesus. They found their unity in Jesus, not their uniformity on their issues. 
Listen to what Jesus prayed for you and me. This is His high-priestly prayer in John 17 that He prayed for you and me. All of us. Everybody who would ever believe.
He says, “I don’t ask on behalf of these alone, but for those, also, who believe in me through their word.”
He prayed a prayer for you and me. Do you know that? Is this the prayer He prayed? That they’ll vote right in the Galilean elections? That they’ll march on Washington once a year? Slay the wicked? Read the King James Version, baby and then people will know they are in? Right? No, no, no. That’s not what He said. If you’re thinking, “Is that in the Bible,” it’s not in the Bible. It’s not in the Bible. It might be in the Tom Jones Version, but it’s not in my Bible. Okay?
Here’s what He said. He said, “That they may all be one. Even as You, Father, are in me and I in You, that they may be in us so that the world may believe.”
Who doesn’t want the world to believe in Jesus? Jesus says, “The secret for the world believing in me is not that you all sit around and debate issues. It’s when the Church gets the main thing the main thing.”
When Jesus is the one that we lift up, when Jesus is the one that we preach, when people know that we’re associated with Jesus and we all do it together, watch out Lakewood Ranch, watch out Sarasota because revival will hit this place.
Here’s another one. This is huge. Every one of us is called to be a priest. Only some of us are called to be prophets.
“I’m going to tell them how it is in Washington.” 
Okay. Well, maybe you’re called to be a prophet. But, I know one thing. We’re all called to be priests because Peter says we’re a chosen race, all of us. We’re a royal priesthood. That’s who we are. We’re a royal priesthood. We proclaim the excellencies of Him who’s called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We’re bringing people back to God. Priests offer sacrifices for people so that they can come back to God in the Old Testament. What we do is we proclaim the excellencies of Him who brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We’re priests.
Now, listen. If you’re called to be a prophet, you confront the powers that be. And if God’s called you to do that, then go do it. Go do what Amos did. Amos was a tender of the Nageeb sheep in the Tekoa wilderness. The Word of God came to him and said, “I want you to go into Israel and I want you to tell them how the cow eats the cabbage.”
And that’s what he did. Not literally “the cow eats the cabbage.” That’s a Kentucky phrase for “get after it.” Okay? Like, “Go shuck the corn.” It’s like, “Go tell them how it is.”
So, he goes in and he blasts everybody. He tells everybody what it is and everything. Some of you may be going, “Man, did God tell somebody how to cow eats the cabbage? That’s crazy.”
But, he goes in and, like Ezekiel, “Lay on your side for a while and put a frying pan next to you. Go be like John the Baptist. Get in the desert. Confront Harod. Be like Isaiah. Walk around naked.”
He did. If you’re called to be a prophet, then go do it. Nobody’s going to hold you back. But, make sure that you’re not trying to walk in an office that you’ve not been called to do. Because, we’ve been called to be priests and priests are different. Priests call prodigals home. The mission of the church is to tell people that God’s not mad at them. He wants them to come home. We want people to come to Jesus. If you’re called to be a prophet, go be it. But, if not, realize that all of us are called to be priests.
The fifth thing I would say is make sure we don’t confuse roles. This is something that’s easy to do. The Church and the individual have different roles. See, some of you all are going to be short order cooks or mechanics or dance instructors or lawyers or doctors or whatever it is that you are. And, as an individual, you are to let your light shine in such a way that people see your good works and glorify your Father who’s in heaven. And that may mean that around the workplace there may be something that comes up where you have to talk about an issue or deal with something or whatever. Okay? That’s on you.
But, listen to me. This is so huge. The Church is the pillar of truth. When I or anybody like me goes into an issue and we preach on that issue, there will be 40, 50, 60% of the church that goes, “Amen. That’s right. You get ‘em, pastor.”
But, there’ll be people in the church that don’t necessarily see that issue exactly the way you see it. What I’ve done at that point is I’ve excluded them. The Word of God is to be preached in the church. Not issues. And I know people want to hear issues. But, what needs to be preached in the church is the Word of God. We need to preach the Word of God.
What’s interesting is like the book of Colossians. Paul talks to slaves and masters and so many Christians go, “Well, why didn’t he do something about it? Why’d he tell the slaves to honor the masters and the masters to love the slaves?” – which was radical for that day. Because, that was the Word of God for the church. That was enough for God to start moving in their hearts to start changing people to start seeing things differently. Paul didn’t need to get into the issue and start creating problems for people. He just preached the Word of God. But, what’s interesting is, as an individual, when he wrote to Philemon, he said, “Hey, why don’t you let Onesimus go?”
The difference between the Church and individuals. I’m going to tell you this right now. I know some of you all wish that I would preach on political issues. I know some of you all wish that I would take on some of that stuff. I want you to know that as long as I’m the pastor of Grace Community Church, we’re going to preach the Word of God. We’re not going to go down bunny trails of issues and we’re going to lift up Jesus. Because, when Jesus is lifted up, all men get drawn unto Him. When issues get preached, people get excluded. And I’m not for excluding anybody. I want everybody at the table. I want to drag as many people in my life, as long as I’ve got breath in my lungs, to bring people into the Kingdom of God so that they can settle their eternity and that we can all gather around Jesus on that day and realize, “Man, we drug a lot of people into the Kingdom of God because we lifted up Jesus.”
I know some of you are going to say, “Well, give me some more. Give me some more. Give me some more.”
Alright. Here’s some thoughts I have. Paul told the church at Corinth, “Hey, now. This isn’t God. This is me.”
This isn’t God. This is Chip. These are some things that I would tell you, and I think they’re really good things for all of us. First of all, I would reserve my best attempts at dealing with issues to those that I have community with. In other words, talk about the issues that are really big to you to the people that will love you on Wednesday morning no matter how much of a fool you made of yourself on Tuesday night. Those are your friends, those people that you have community with. Those are people that love God and they know that you love God and they know your heart.

If you’re going to get into this, I would do it with people that I have community with. The second thing I would tell you is is I would remind myself that creating awareness is not as valuable as providing real solutions. Jesus didn’t go about creating awareness. Jesus went about fixing things. I get asked all the time. They’re like, “Chip, are you ever going to talk about abortion? Are you ever going to talk about abortion?”
Let me tell you something: The day I will talk about abortion is when we have moved into a new church and we have a lot more people and we have a lot more money coming in and we can go build a place where unwed mothers and people that got pregnant that don’t want to have children can come and can get help and we can birth those kids and we can take them home and we can help them because now we can fix it rather than just talk about it. Because, I’m tired of talking about it. Let’s fix it. And if I can’t fix it, I’m going to zip it.
Come on. We get on Facebook: “I’m going to create awareness.”
You didn’t create awareness. All you did is irritate all the people that don’t agree with you. Nobody ever went, “Oh, that was a great video, Chip. I think I’m going to get down on my knees right now and change my mind.”
People take notice when you provide solutions, not by creating awareness. Peaceful and constructive discussion is better than angry, heated or violent confrontation. Let’s be honest. A lot of times in the church, we get all angry and heated about this stuff. Go back to Dr. Martin Luther King. Why did he have such a voice? Why was there change? Because, he was peaceful and he was constructive in the way that he did it. Or Rosa Parks on the bus. She didn’t get all mad and upset and yell and scream. She just did what she did.
Maybe sometimes we need to go back and learn to be peaceful. Maybe we need to learn to be wise. Maybe we need to learn to speak with grace into areas rather than getting all bent out of shape.
How about this one? On ethical, political and human dignity issues, a life well-lived is better than 100,000 words. Wherever you go, preach Christ. And, if necessary, use words. Live it. Demonstrate it. People will see what you do. They don’t care what you say. They care what you do. And let’s be honest. The Church has often said things with their mouth that they didn’t do with their actions, and that’s cost us out there in the world. The issues that we want to see changed don’t come out but by prayer and fasting.
This is what I say to everybody: Go back and all the time you spent of Facebook, all the time you spent on social media, all the time you’re sitting around telling everybody the things that you think are important to you, I want to ask you a question: Have you spent as much time or more time on your face before God begging Him and taking hold of the horns of the alter saying, “God, change our world. God, move in our lives. God, move in my life. Change my life. Change the people that I live around.”
We don’t do that. We talk about it. It’s like the disciples. They went, “Man, we hit the guy on the head like You did, but the demon didn’t come out.”
Jesus is like, “Fools! You just don’t go do what I did. You need to be praying and fasting before you go do that.”
Not coming out until we get ahold of God. Lastly, the only thing that’s going to change lives is the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
I spent the last couple of days with Dr. Warren Gage in Tampa recording the introductory classes to Plato’s Republic. The ancients understood something. The ancients understood that the city was ill. There was an ill in the city. The way that they were going to solve that ill was what they called “politics.” Politics were putting people in positions that could help the citizenry become virtuous. And to do that, they needed a rhetoric because they needed to pursued them with words. And they did poetry so that they had the categories that people could follow. And you can read that in Aristotle. He had ethics, politics, rhetoric and poetry. Four books. That’s how they did it.
The problem is when they got all that together and thought they had solved everything, they realized something: It didn’t solve anything because there was still a problem in the city. The city was looking for a hero. Our cities are looking for heroes. And let me tell you something: If I believed I could elect a president, a senator or a house of representatives’ person, or if we could put a law that would make people change, I would be all in. But, I’m here to tell you it’s not going to do it. The only thing that’s going to change the hearts of people is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s the power of God unto salvation.
When we get off track and we get sidetracked with all the other stuff, we miss the greatest message in the world. The greatest message in the world is that God loves people. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him would have everlasting life and would never parish. Yes, Jesus loves me because the Bible tells me so. That’s our message. Let’s stay focused.
I believe, with all of my heart, that we are here for this moment. I believe Grace Community Church exists for this moment. We may not be able to change Washington, we may not be able to change Phoenix, Arizona. But, man, I believe by the power of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit we can change Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota with lifting up Jesus because when He’s lifted up, all men will come to Him. Amen? Let’s do it.
Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You with a humble heart because, God, I am no different than anybody else here. It is so easy to get distracted from the main thing. God, it is my role as pastor of this church to keep the vision clear and where we need to go. Lord, I know there’s conflict and I know there’s conflict with political issues. But, Lord, I pray in Jesus’ name that You would help us to be identified with the lowly Galilean that hung on a cross between heaven and earth to save humanity.
Lord, I hitch up to You. You are the way, the truth and the life. You are the one that can change hearts. Help us, Lord, to be a church that always and forever does that; keeping the main thing the main thing.
So, Lord, I pray that as we leave today that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us. I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again and, Lord, I pray that You would just continue to stir and move in our midst to lift up Your Son. Because, God, I believe the days that are ahead are going to be incredibly ripe for people coming into the Church and coming to know You as Savior. And, Lord, we want to be the ones that are standing on the hill shouting “Jesus” so that people can come. We love You for it. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Have a great Fourth of July. 

Conflict Week 5: Marital Conflict

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

Everyone knows conflict is part of life. There are some who tell stories of strength in relationships, marriages, churches and businesses because of conflict. But, the vast majority of stories seem to have another ending. Most people would love to hear a magic cure for conflict, but we all know that doesn't exist. Conflict even abounds throughout the pages of Scripture within people, between people, within groups and between groups. Sometimes it was handled in a godly fashion, but more often than not, it wasn't.

What if we could resolve conflict better? What if we could grow from it? What if we could learn from it? Maybe, just maybe, that starts now.

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Conflict.” Most of you all who are regular attenders know that at the beginning of every message I do in the middle of a series, I try to bring everybody back up to speed. We see every week in every service there’s at least a few first-time visitors here at Grace. We want to make sure that you feel comfortable if this is your first time. And the last thing that you want to do is push yourself to actually come to church at a new church and then to walk in and be in the middle of a series and have no idea what’s going on. So, I want to put you at ease and make sure that you know I’m going to sort of give a summary here of what we’ve been doing.

For those of you all who like to travel during the summer and maybe you’ve missed a week or two, it’s always good to get that summary and then those of us who have been here for every single one, sometimes it’s just nice to know what we are doing again and all of that stuff. So, that’s why I do that.

But, what we’ve been doing is talking about conflict. And I think that whether you’re someone that’s not even sure with what you want to do with God or if God exists or who Jesus is or someone that’s been walking with God for 40 or 50 years, I think everybody would agree and everybody would readily intuit the fact that if we could have better tools in our toolbox to deal with conflict, we would like that. I mean, nobody would turn that down because conflict’s a part of our lives. And it comes in every way, shape or form. It comes in families. It comes at work. It comes at different places. We all know that and I think if we could be equipped with some better tools, we would all agree that that is something we would like to have.

So, that’s what we’ve been doing over the past several weeks is dealing with this area of conflict and trying to look at what does the Bible say about that and how can we apply that to our lives. And now we’re in that portion of the series where we’re dealing with “what.” Like, “What do I do in certain situations? What do I do in this particular thing?” We sort of boil it down and really get real and raw with this particular, practical stuff on conflict.

Here’s what I was planning on doing. What I was planning on doing is taking this week and I’ve got some questions in – I’d asked for some questions to come in about some things you’re dealing with – and then I could deal with it in a real world way. As I started getting some questions in and as I started working on the material, I realized I can’t put all of this together in a message. I don’t even know that I can put it all together in two.

So, what I’m going to do is this – and we’re going to sort of expand the series a little bit longer than I had originally planned. This week, I’m going to deal with marital conflict. As I started putting together the material, I’m like, I’m going to do the church a disservice if I don’t spend some time on this particular issue. The next week – which is next week – I’m going to deal with those real hot-button things.

What do you do when you’re with your friends and you get into that doctrinal, theological disagreement? How do you handle conflict? What do you do when political things come about? How do we handle that? That’s a hot-button in today’s world. What do you do at work when things are not going on?

I felt like I can’t spend 10 minutes on that and do you service. So, I’m going to do a whole message on issue-based conflict and then I’m going to end the series on what I call “unhealthy” areas of conflict. What do you do with a brother or sister that you haven’t talked to for seven years? What do you do with an estranged relationship? What do you do where there’s massive, massive abuse or things like that? What do you do with that stuff? And we’re going to talk about that.

So, I’m going to try to get as practical as I can possibly be. Here’s what I would ask of you. The first thing I would ask of you is this: Realize that I’m trying to create a dialogue here in our church. I’m trying to get us to talk about issues that maybe we don’t ever talk about in church. Or, if we do, it’s sort of like just getting preached at and you’re told “this is what you’ve got to do” and you never really get to think through this.

I want to let you in on something: The things that I’m telling you I think are great advice. I think it’s a good place to start. I think it’s a diving board. You jump off the diving board and then, from there, you’re going to have to sort of go home, you’re going to have to get with God, you’re going to have to get with your loved one. You’re going to have to get with friends, families or small groups and talk through some of these issues. Because, I think – and I’ll be honest. As I was putting together this material, I was like, “You know what? If I would’ve gotten this at 20 years old, what a difference this would have made in my life.”

And I’m hoping that you will walk out of here today and next week and the week after going, “Man, I got some real serious stuff here to walk out with.”

That’s my hope and my prayer. I can assure you that it is my fundamental nature to walk in here every weekend and do something that equips you as a church to be able to live a victorious life in Christ so that when you leave here you have something better than when you came in.

So, this week what we’re dealing with is marriage and relationship conflict. What happens when conflict hits our marriages or our relationships? And I say relationships because some of you may be in a dating relationship or some of you may be planning on getting married. Let me say at the outset: As soon as you talk about marriage, as soon as you talk about relationships, there’s at least somebody in the church that goes, “I’m not planning on getting married, so I’m going to just tune out right now.”

Don’t do that. Because, the things that I’m going to talk about today will also be good in interpersonal relationships. Every single one of them won’t deal with it because we’re talking about marriage stuff, but listen in. And secondly – and this is so important. Please, please. I don’t care what’s going on in your life. Hear me on this. Whenever you talk about this situation, there’s at least one person in a church that has been divorced. And, all of a sudden, they start going, “Oh, man,” and all of the stuff starts sort of drudging up.

Listen. I want to put you at ease. Don’t let that garbage get into your head. Don’t do that. Don’t let the enemy get into your head or anything like that. Listen. We love you and God has forgiven you and we can move on and all of that stuff. So, please, please, please don’t let this be a guilt-ridden sermon because you had a divorce and now, all of a sudden, you’re going, “I wish I would’ve done it this way or I wish I would’ve know that.”

Please don’t do that. That’s not the intention here of anything that I’m doing. My intention here is to help and not to hurt anybody.

So, I think we all would agree that, from time to time, conflict hits our marriages. Right? Would you agree with that? Like a couple sitting around a table at breakfast. The lady’s eating some cereal. She looks at her husband and says, “Do you know what next week is?”

He’s like most men going, “Ooo. I’ve got to figure out here what’s next week.”

She goes, “It’s my birthday.”

He goes, “I was just getting ready to say that.”

You know? So, she says, “My birthday,” and he’s like, “Alright.”

She goes, “I’m going to tell you what I want.”

He says, “Okay. Great.”

She goes, “It’s going to be shiny.”

He’s like, “Okay.”

“And it’s going to go from 0-170 in less than 3 seconds.”

He’s like, “Alright.”

So, the next week comes around and he presents his wife her birthday present. A weight scale. Thus conflict began. Right? The rumble is great. I love it. But, conflict arises in our marriages and we know it. We know that it arises. And this list is not exhaustive, but I think it’ll give us a great place to start this morning. Finances. I’m sure nobody’s ever had a little area of concern around the house on finances. Maybe you wanted to buy something and they didn’t think it was a good buy. Or maybe you spend more than they do. It sometimes can create conflict.

The past. That’s a good one. The past comes up and we like to fight about those things. Can I just make a point here? I hope that you’ll receive this. If you are married to someone that did something in their past before they met you, you fell in love with that person because of the experiences that they had had in their life. Stop beating them up with the past. Stop it.

Family. That’s an area of some conflict. You know, you tell everybody when you marry them that they’re supposed to leave and cleave, right? Okay? But, you know good and well when you marry somebody that you marry a family. Can I get an amen on that one? You know that. And then what happens is somebody in the marriage spends a lot of time with the family and the other person doesn’t like your Uncle Joe. So – and no offense if your name’s Joe. I’m not picking on Joes, it’s just a point. But, we get to fight on that.

Listening and feeling appreciated. You see that a lot as a pastor when you counsel people. Somebody will feel like, “I’m doing a lot towards the marriage. I’m really trying. I’m doing all this stuff and I just don’t feel like he listens to me.”

Or he doesn’t feel appreciated or “she doesn’t listen to me. I don’t feel appreciated by her,” and all that stuff.

Parenting styles. That’s a big one these days, right? You know? Are you going to put them in time-out? Do you believe in spanking? Do you water board? I have six kids. I’m just kidding. I’m just playing. You guys, come on.

Desires. Dreams. Spirituality. What’s it look like to be involved? Too much church? Too little church? All that stuff. These are areas that we get in conflict around the house and I think we all know that. So, what do we do? What do we do when those conflicts arise? How do we handle that? Are there some steps that we could do that would enhance our ability instead of getting worse? Maybe we could see some transformation in our conflicts? Sure.

What I’d like to ask you to do – and I’m asking you this humbly. I’m not asking you this in a way that you have to do it. But, this would be a really good time, if you have a journal or you like to write notes on your phone or you like to copy stuff down or you like to use the back of the bulletin on the notes thing or whatever, to start writing some things down. Because, I’m hoping you will take this out of here with you and you will talk with your husband or wife or you’ll talk to the person that you’re dating with or you’ll talk to God about these things. Because, I really want to help you in this area of conflict.

So, “What do I do? What do I do, Chip? We’re fighting about all this stuff at the house.”

Well, the first thing that we need to do is decide up front who comes first. This is huge. Who does come first? In today’s world, you hear it all the time. I’m going to eat first. You hear it all the time in the world. You can’t love anybody until you learn to love yourself. You’ve got to take care of self first, which is exactly not what Jesus said. Jesus said, “Seek me first and the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then I’ll take care of all the things that you need,” which is really different because that’s not the way we view the world.

So, who comes first? Do you? Does your spouse? Do your kids? You see that a lot of time, don’t you, around the house? Kids come first and then people are mad because they feel like that’s a misplaced place? Can I tell you something? You’re called to be a parent to your kids, not your kid’s friend. It’s going to get real and raw in here real quick. It’s like, “Man. Okay.”

Who comes first? Your job?

“Honey, my job’s first and everything else comes second. If we didn’t have the job I have, we wouldn’t have the money coming in.”

It doesn’t matter. Who comes first? Can I tell you as a pastor, can I tell you as a Christian, can I tell you the person that has to come first in your relationship in your life is God? It’s Jesus. Marriage and relationships will not be all they can be without first being committed to Christ. Which means He’s first. Not me. Not anybody else. God first. And if God is first, then the question we have to ask ourselves if we’re in a marriage or we’re going to think about getting marriage is we have to ask, “Has God said anything to me as a woman, as a wife,” or, “Has God said anything to me as a man, as a husband that I’m supposed to do?”

“Is there something He’s telling me that I should do? Because, if He’s first, then what He says that I should be doing is what I should, in fact, be doing.”

And He does. He says to women and He says to men some very important things when it comes to conflict. But, unfortunately, as soon as we hear them, we immediately, usually – as a general rule – don’t like what He has to say. Which means He’s really not first and we need to think about that. Or we like to focus on what the other person is supposed to do. Men like to say, “Honey, do you see what this says here that you’re supposed to do? Honey, you see that?”

Or women, “Excuse me. Do you see what God has said you’re supposed to do?”

It wasn’t written to you. It was written to them. Here’s what God says to women. If you’re a wife or you want to be a wife, here’s what the Word of God says: Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord. Most people in church – especially if you’re a woman in America today – are like, “That’s just not right. I’m not doing that.”

Okay. Well, hold on, now. It’s in the Bible. By you saying, “I’m not going to do it,” you’re already saying right now that God’s not first. You’ve already said that. Now, let me explain this to you. This does not mean that everything your husband tells you to do you have to do. This does not mean when your husband tells you to do something that’s absolutely unbiblical that you go do it. It’s not anything to do with that. It has to do with honoring and respecting your husband. I’ve counseled hundreds of people. Can I tell you how many times I’ve broken up the couple and talked to just the guy and the guy looked at me and said, “Man, my wife just doesn’t respect me anymore. She just doesn’t value what I have to say. It’s eroded so bad that there’s no more respect.”

God knew. God knew what that person needed. That’s why I said, women, the first thing you need to do, this is your role – we don’t like to hear the word “role.” But, let me explain to you how this works. Role is not a bad thing. Let’s talk about basketball. I love basketball. The deal is you cannot put a 7-foot person who should be playing center as a point guard bringing the ball down the court. They normally can’t dribble. Do you ever notice guys that are really big and can just reach up and stuff the ball, they just can’t be doing all the dribbling stuff? They’re just sort of big and they’re a little bit clumsy? But, man, when they’re down underneath the rim, they can put that thing in.

Well, you don’t want to put a 6’2 point guard under the rim. It doesn’t work. Good teams know their roles. It doesn’t mean anybody’s any better. It just means that they have a role. And, for the team to succeed, the role needs to be followed. God says, “Hey, for women: This is your role. For men: You’re to love your wives and don’t be bitter towards them.”

Or, as the ESV says, “Don’t be harsh with them.”

Can I tell you how many times I’ve counseled husbands and wives – hundreds of times – and pulled the wife aside and the wife says, “I just wish my husband would love me. I just wish he would cherish me. I wish he wouldn’t get so harsh towards me when we fight.”

God knew that. He knew what you need before you even were born. So, when we start off here, we say, “Okay. We’re going to have conflict in our marriage. We’re going to fight about finances and families. We’re going to fight. This is something we’re going to do. We’re going to have conflict. What do I do, Chip?”

Well, the first thing you’ve got to do is figure out who’s first. God’s first. And if God’s first, that means that we have some responsibilities that we’re supposed to do. And if we did what we were supposed to do, what we would find is that our conflict would be an area of transformation rather than an area of confrontation. But, what we do is, because we don’t put God first and we decide to put ourselves first or something else first, we end up getting into these conflicts and making a mistake. The first thing that we’ve got to do is figure out who’s first.

The second thing that we need to do is we need to pick the right time. Anybody ever had conflict in your house and you just flew off the handle? I’m probably the only one. I’m the only one here in Lakewood Ranch that’s ever done that. I get it. Old sinner Chip, the pastor. He’s from Kentucky. God bless him. Pray for him. All of that stuff.

But, the reality is I think most of us have had those moments where we didn’t pick the right time. When you’ve got conflict – if it’s finances, children or whatever it is – pick the right time. The Greeks had two great words. They had “chronos” and “kairos.”

And “chronos,” we got our word “chronometer” from that. If you like watches, chronometer is one that keeps really good time. That’s time. So is kairos. It’s time. But, this word is like the right time. Like, it was time for Jesus to go to Jerusalem. It was time. Sometimes, in our marriages, it’s time that we deal with what needs to be dealt with, but it’s not time to deal with what we need to deal with.

Let me give you some examples because you’re going to go, “Okay. You’re right. This is true.”

Let me give you some examples of when it’s not the right time. When someone’s tired it’s not a good time. It just doesn’t work. If they’re really tired and you want to fight about something, it’s not going to go very well. When they’re hungry, watch the Snickers commercials. You don’t do “hangry” when it’s conflict time. You know? It just doesn’t work. When they’re stressed out, when they come home and go, “I’ve had the worst day of all.”

“Great. Let’s talk about parenting styles right now.”

It’s not going to work. And we laugh, but we all do it. Making dinner. You know? I mean, I make one dish about once a week. Crab Alfredo. Except for like the fake crab. My kids don’t know the difference anyway. So, I cook that up and make the Alfredo. And Mindy’s like, “I ain’t coming in the kitchen and getting even around you,” because I’m focused, I’m OCD. I’m so bad it’s CDO. I have to alphabetize it, you know? I’ve got all this stuff going on and I’m doing all this cooking.

She’s like, “I ain’t getting in there.”

It would be the wrong time to come in and go, “Hey, let’s talk about what’s going on.”

It just wouldn’t be a good time. Catching up on work? Relaxing? Timing. It’s huge. Let me give you an even better way to deal with some conflict. When you have something you really need to talk about and it’s serious, maybe you need to plan when you talk about that. Like, a time where it’s a good time. Can I give you another word of advice? Go do it at the UTC Mall on the couch. Do you know why? Because, you won’t act like you act in your bedroom on that couch at UTC Mall.

I’m preaching. Listen to what the writer of Proverbs says. It’s huge.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

Man, that is so true. Is it the right time? You say, “I want to help my marriage, Chip. When we’ve got conflict going on, what do I do?”

Well, you’ve got to figure out who’s first. You’ve got to figure out is it the right time. What’s the third thing? Avoid, at all costs, what I’m calling “verbal deal-breakers.”

Oftentimes, when I’m counseling husbands and wives, I’ll say to them when they’re talking to each other, “Whoa, hold on. It’s not what you just said that was bad. It’s the way you said it. See, death and life are in the power of the tongue. And, along the way, we pick up these words that are bombs. They’re just bombs when there’s conflict and we’ve got to avoid them. Let me give you some of them: 

Always. If you’re on the receiving end of an “always,” your blood pressure goes up massively. When your spouse says, “You always,” you’re like, “I don’t always.”

Never. You never. That’s not a good word. It’s a verbal deal-breaker. It’s not going to help conflict. It’s going to create issues.

Comparisons. “You’re reminding me of your mom.”

That’s like you’re just done. You might as well just go to UTC Mall at that point, you know what I’m talking about? Or, “My ex didn’t do it that way.”

That’s not going to work. But, we do it. The past. Man, we like to drag that one up, don’t we? Can you imagine? I want you to think for a second. Think about the time you wear your spouse out with the past. What we do is we do it when we’re starting to lose on the conflict or we feel like we’re losing, that’s when we pull these things out of our back pocket and go, “Bam!”

It makes you feel good for about a minute and then you realize, “Wow, man. I have created a really bad deal here.”

The past. Let me ask you a question. How about when you went to God and you pray and say, “Hey, God. It’s me again.”

“Yeah. Remember that thing you did last week?”

“I understand. But, God, I just want to tell You I love You.”

“Yeah. But, do you remember the thing?”

See, if God treated us that way – but yet, we’ll treat people that way. How about “you?”

“You,” usually, is followed by “always,” and “you,” is usually followed by “never.” But, you, you, you, you. And then we have these harsh words. You pick up a word every once in a while. There’s like a word. Maybe a cuss word or some word that you have that you know is just the word. And you pick that word out when you feel like you just need to drop the bomb in the middle of the conflict. And it doesn’t work. We need to avoid these verbal deal-breakers.

The writer of Proverbs says, “A hot-tempered person stirs up strife.”

Someone that just can’t keep their mouth shut and that’s just hot-tempered. Don’t do that. But, it’s the slow person that calms a dispute. Sometimes we just need to step back and not use our mouths as opportunity for death in a relationship, but for life.

Now, this one here is a marriage saver. If you’re not married, you need to write this down. If you’re married, you need to really think through this. I’ve had so many people come up to me after both services and go, “I’ve never heard anything like that. That changed my life.”

In fact, some of you are just going to rededicate your life right now. You’re going to be like, “God, I’m ready to rededicate my life right here.”

I’m serious. It’s going to be that good. So, here’s the thing. Look up here. Fourth: Learn the priceless value of whether it’s a problem or a difference. Let me explain, because this is huge. This is a marriage changer for people. Does it threaten your safety? Does it threaten your health? Is it an unfair burden? Does it mess up the children? Does it create a financial crisis? That is a problem. Problems need to be worked on quickly and resolved. Because, problems will destroy a marriage. So, you’ve got to know what a problem is.

The writer of Proverbs says – and this is so true – “The prudent sees danger and hides himself...”

In other words, he does something about it. He sees that there’s danger coming and he makes sure he’s not going to be in the way.

“But the naive proceed and pay the penalty.”

When we don’t deal with problems in our marriage, we’re going to be in trouble. And a problem is a problem. However, a problem’s not a difference. A difference is what attracted you to the person you’re married to. You’re like, “Man, I was really a quiet person. But, man, they were really loud and had all these friends. Man, it was so exciting to get out there and get out of my shell and do stuff with them.”

Then you’re like, “He or she was quiet and here I was, this loud person, but it was so nice every once in a while to get one on one and talk and have these great conversations and all of this stuff.”

Or, “I was a morning person and they were an evening person. It was so cool to stay out late because I never stayed out late.”

“Man, I loved her so much I’d get up early in the morning because I wanted to do it.”

And then, all of a sudden, we get married and those differences that attracted us to the person that we married become repulsive and you have a difference. Do you know what you do with differences? You learn to accept. What we want to do is change our mate. It doesn’t work. God designed marriage to be a place where we learn to accept and love our mates for who they are. You married them. You said, “For better or for worse.”

You didn’t mean that, did you? Did you mean it for richer or for poorer? Did you mean it for in sickness or in health? Did you mean that? Because, if you meant that, then the thing that got you excited about that person to begin with, which was opposite of you, now becomes a difference. And what we want to do is we want to change them and we want to fight about it and we want to get mad about it.

I can’t tell you how many marriages break up in America over differences, and it’s a shame that that should be happening in the Church of God where the power of the Holy Spirit is here to give us victory in our lives. Differences need to be solved by accepting. Listen to what Paul says to the church here at Rome.

He says, “May the God who gives you perseverance and encouragement grant you to be the same mind to one another, according to Jesus Christ, so that with one accord you may, with one voice, glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Listen: “Therefore, accept one another just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”

Sometimes we need to learn the difference between a problem and a difference. Differences are areas where we need to work together, we need to pray together, we need to compromise. Differences are not areas to blow up and to get all excited about. Problems are. Differences need to be accepted. It’ll help you in your marriage.

Fifth: Refuse to be without a mentor. This is something – I don’t know why we’re like this. But, if you notice, most people who live in America, they don’t want anybody involved in anything that they’re doing at all. We want to go secret. You’ll see a husband and wife that’ll be fighting, but you don’t know they’re fighting. They come in, “Oh, praise the Lord, brother. How are you doing? Oh, great.”

And they’re all smiling and everything. Then, all of a sudden, they come to you and say, “Yeah. We got a divorce last week.”

You’re like, “What? What went on?”

“Well, we’ve been fighting for six months.”

“Well, nobody knew about it.”

“Well, we didn’t want to tell anybody.”

No, listen. This is not the way Christianity works. Christianity doesn’t work as lone rangers. And can I tell you something? Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Right? Okay. The Lord’s prayer is not “my Father which art in heaven,” it’s “our Father.”

1 Corinthians 12:13-14 says we need each other. We need each other. You can’t have a body that’s just a toe. You also have to have ears, hands and all that other stuff. And some of you are armpits. I know. But, it doesn’t make a difference. The reality is we need all of it. We need all of it. Whatever you do, if you are an armpit, don’t use that Tom’s natural deodorant. It doesn’t work. It’s like, “Buddy, go back to the lab. That stuff’s terrible.”

Anyway. Somebody’s like, “Oh, you need to get that stuff that doesn’t have aluminum in it.”

Yeah. The only thing it runs off is my wife. Not odors. Anyways, refuse to be without a mentor. Listen to me for a second. This is so important and huge. You cannot do life alone. I love it. I’m a professor and people are like, “I’m self-educated.”

Really? Tell me about that process.

“Well, I read books and I studied videos.”

Well, you didn’t do it by yourself. You had somebody that taught you.

“Well, no. I did it on my own.”

No. You didn’t do it on your own. You read a book that somebody else wrote. You had somebody else in your life.

They go, “Oh, yeah. Okay. Yeah. I wasn’t really think about that. That’s right.”

I mean, you do not do life alone. Your marriages and my marriage will not be all that God wants it to be if we don’t have people in our lives that we can talk to about our problems. Listen to what the Word of God says:

“Where there is no guidance, people fall.”

Okay. So, if you don’t get any guidance in your marriage and you just try to hold up at your house and make it happen, I’m here to tell you that where there is no guidance, you’re going to fall. But, an in an abundance of counselors, there’s victory.

Does anybody not want victory? Of course we do. But, we need each other. We need people in our lives. Without consultation, plans are frustrating. But, with many counselors, they succeed. Do you know why we do supper clubs? Do you know why we do small groups? Do you know why we do that? We do that so that you can find people that you can relate to and have relationships with because we all need to be connected with people. You need people in your life.

I have mentors in my life I talk to every day. I have stuff that I could make decisions as a pastor of what we’re going to do as a church. I’ll call them.

“What do you think about this? What do you think about that?”

My sermons? I preach it to Tom and Dan almost every weekend. Every week.

“Come in here and listen to this. Does this make sense?”

You say, “Well, why would you do such a thing?”

Because I care about what I’m doing and I know I can’t do it on my own. I need people. My family needs people. Look at how important my mom and dad were to my kids. Huge. And yet, we’ll get in a marriage relationship and go, “I’m going to do it on my own.”

It’s like, “How’s it working, man?”

“Well, we just got divorced.”

“That’s a good one. That really worked well.”

No, no. We need people in our lives. And here’s the situation: Sometimes it’s the rhythm of grace. We humble ourselves and God will lift us up. We humble ourselves and God will lift us up. Maybe we’ve got some mentors in our lives that we really trust and we go, “Hey, we’re struggling in our marriage here. Can you help us out?”

And they’re going to say, “Yeah. Let me give you some ideas and some advice,” and you go back and pray about it and you’ve got somebody on your side. Then, all of a sudden, you realize, “Hey, you know what? My marriage is sort of working.”

Maybe, just maybe, allow yourself to go under somebody so that maybe you can come out on top. Cannot do it by yourself.

Number six: “What do I do when I’ve got problems? What do I do?”

Well, sometimes we need healthy boundaries for our protection. And this is something we don’t talk about in church. We just don’t do it. I had somebody say, “I’ve been at church for 30 years. I’ve never heard anything about healthy boundaries.”

Let me tell you about healthy boundaries. Paul has a marital problem in his church in Corinth. You can read it in 1 Corinthians 5. He’s got a guy that’s having sexual relations with his step mom. Is Paul loving? Absolutely. Is Paul a grace-filled guy? Absolutely. Does Paul think you work your way into heaven? Nope. All by grace. What does he say? Well, he writes to him and he says, “I told y’all what to do when I wrote before and you didn’t do it. What I told you to do was this: The one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.”

You go, “Wow, man. They’re going to kick him out of church?”

Paul said, “Yeah. Kick him out of church.”

Why? Because, he’s in sin and he’s not doing anything to repent. And if we just keep doing the same old thing, we’re going to get the same old thing. So, maybe what we need to do is do like Jesus said. Jesus said, “Hey, if they’re doing this stuff, they’re tax collectors and sinners. If they won’t listen to you and they won’t listen to a couple of other people and they won’t listen to the church, maybe we need to create a healthy boundary.”

Now, is the boundary there to keep the guy from being in the church? No. Is the boundary there to punish him? No. The boundary is there because Paul says, “Maybe he’ll be out in the world going, ‘Man, what I’m doing is really dumb. Maybe I need to figure out how to get this thing back right so I can go back.’”

And sometimes we don’t understand how to create healthy boundaries. Let me tell you something: Being a person of love and forgiveness does not imply that you accept abuse. We’ve had women, all the time, that they tell them to go back home and just suck it up and pray about it. I was 22 years old. The first church job I’d ever had. I don’t know why in the world they decided – I was an associate pastor – let’s take the 22-year-old guy and let him do marriage counseling. I was as lost as a ball in high weeds. I mean, it’s like, “What?”

The first person I got came in with a bruise on her eye and said, “My husband’s hitting me.”

Man, you talk about like a real moment. I was like, “Man, I don’t even know what to tell you to do.”

I went and asked somebody on staff. They’re like, “You know, tell her to go pray about it.”

I’m like, “Pray about it? Man, we need to do something about it.”

Let me just be honest here. When there’s abuse, you need to get out from it. You need to create boundaries. You say, “Chip’s telling everybody to go get a divorce.”

That’s not what I said. What I said it sometimes healthy boundaries need to be created so that we don’t get beat up. Listen: If you’re being persecuted for your Christianity, you go all the way to death. That’s biblical. But, when you have abuse in a relationship and people are beating you up and verbally abusing you and doing all of that stuff, you need to create a boundary. Otherwise, it’s not healthy.

Love says this isn’t right. Love says let’s put a boundary up. The boundary is not there forever. The boundary can come down when things get right. But, the boundary is there to save people from things that they don’t need to be taking on the chin. And if you’re in an abusive relationship, please here me because this is huge, okay?

So, I asked people to send in stuff. Here’s what I got: One person wants a divorce. The other doesn’t. There’s been unfaithfulness and verbal abuse. What do we do? My spouse looks at pornography on a regular basis and I don’t like it. What do I do? These are real questions. These are real, real issues of conflict. So, from this point forward, we’ve got a few minutes here, I’m going to give you some real, real, real answers. Maybe some things you’ve never heard before. Maybe some things you can’t even believe a pastor would say. But, I’m going to be as real as I can be. So, if you want to know what this portion of the sermon is, this is PC’s, down home, tell it like it is section. That’s what this is right here. Listen to me, please, and lean in. If you’re watching via the internet and mobile app, please, please, please pay attention here. This is huge.

Look up here. If your spouse is coming to you in honesty and humility and asking you to make a change in an obvious area of sin, you have a covenantal responsibility to change. I’m going to tell you something here as a pastor. I am tired of the marriages in church looking no better than marriages in the world. I am tired of people being so selfish who put their hands up in worship and say, “I love God,” who will not bow the knee to God and put Him first and start doing the things that God has asked us to do. Listen: I believe, as your pastor, 2 Corinthians 5:17. That when someone is in Christ, the old has passed away and the new has come. They are a new creation. I believe Paul in Ephesians 3 when he says, “God can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think according to the power that lives within you and me.”

It’s time for you and me, if we’re in marriages or we want to get married, to say, “You know what? I’m going to put God first and I’m not going to walk around living like the world and I’m not going to make it all about me. I’m going to treat my marriage the way it needs to be treated and I’m going to do the right thing because I’m not going to continue to live in the way that we’re continuing to live because God has better for you and me.”

You can tell I’m a little excited about this, right? Like, this is honest here. We, as a church, want to go tell everybody in the world what a marriage should be and our marriages don’t look any different than the people in the world. Come on. Fix it in the house of God first. Fix it here first. Then people will want what we have. We’ve got a big finger. “Let me tell you what a marriage is supposed to be. Let me tell you.”

We can’t even get it right here. Divorce rates are the same in the church as they are in the world. If your spouse comes to you and says, “Listen, you’re in sin. You’re cheating on me. You’re doing this stuff that’s wrong,” you need to get on your face and you need to say, “God, I believe You can change the life of a human being. God, I need You to change me now.”

And you need to get involved with some people or you need to get involved in something and see God change your life so that your marriage can be in the right place. But, listen, I’m real. I know this happens all the time. Wives go to their husbands and husbands go to their wives and say, “Would you please, please, please help me in this area? Please.”

And they say, “Nope. I’m going to do whatever I want to do.”

I’m going to tell you what you need to do. I’m going to help you out. The first thing you need to do is you need to establish some healthy boundaries. You need to establish boundaries. You need to say, “We’re not going to continue to do this dance that we’re doing here, because this dance isn’t working. 

And that may mean as little as getting someone else involved. It may mean as much as moving out. And you say, “Whoa. Man, the pastor said move out.”

I didn’t say divorce them. I said move out. Because, sometimes you’ve got to create a boundary. When you’re getting abused, you’re getting hit, you’re getting yelled at, you fear for yourself, you need to get out of that thing and you need to establish a boundary so that whoever it is that’s on the other side that’s offending can maybe come to their senses and get their life right so that your marriage can get restored.

The second thing is you need to stand your ground from entering in counseling. You say, “No, no. We’re not going to go hold up and try to handle this when you’re doing all this stuff and acting like this. No, no. We’re going to get people involved and we’re going to get pastors involved.”

It’s funny. Tom was like, “Man, the pastoral calendar is going to be filled for the next six months after this message.”

You know? And I hope so. We are here for you. We’re here for you. It’s what we want to do. We want to see this work. Stand your ground and wait for genuine repentance. Listen. If you’re the guy or girl that’s on the offending side, James says it very clear here. He says, “To the one who knows the right thing to do and doesn’t do it, it’s sin.”

If you know what you’re doing is wrong and you continue to do it, it’s sin and you’re not going to be in the right place with God and you’re not going to help your marriage.

Then, lastly, don’t settle for anything other than reconciliation and restoration. Because, God doesn’t want our marriages to look like the world. He wants our marriages to be places where God works. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to have conflict. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to have disagreements. But, we can do it in a different way and people can see us do it in a different way and people can want what we have. That’s because we’ve got to put God first. We’ve got to pick the right times. We can’t do the verbal stuff. We’ve got to do all the things that we just talked about.

So, what I want to do is this. I want to pray for our marriages here at Grace Community Church. If you’re married, you need to take the hand of your spouse right now. If you’re not married, you need to think, “Man, if I get married, I really need to be thinking about this. God, I need You to download this on me.”

I want to pray for you. Let’s bow our heads.

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You right now in the mighty and strong name of Your Son Jesus. Lord, the marriages in the church are under attack. God, I’m praying right now in Jesus’ name that You would break bondage’s, Lord. That You would break addictions, Lord. That You would break selfishness, Lord. In the name of Jesus. And Lord, that marriages in this church would come into an agreement that they’re going to do the things that God has called them to do. They’re going to believe that You have the power by the Holy Spirit that lives within us to make differences in our marriages, Lord.

And I believe that there’s going to be a markedly different change in the marriages and relationships at Grace Community Church as they walk out of here today because they’re going to start looking to you first in ways they never have and they’re going to start coming together in ways that they never have and they’re going to protect that marriage and do the stuff that’s right, Lord, so that they can be a witness to the world about the power of God even in our marriages.

Lord, I pray for those that are struggling. God, I pray that You would lift their head right now in the name of Jesus. Lord, I pray for those that feel broken. Lord, I pray that they would know that there is a balm in Gilead. Lord, I pray in Jesus’ name that the power of God would come into our church and restore and renew and convict and burden us as husbands and wives to protect our marriages, Lord, for the glory of God.

And Lord, I pray for the future marriages that will come in this church. Lord, I pray that they would be thinking through all of these things so that they would protect that relationship so that, Lord, when they do come together, they’ll come together for Your glory in a way that is pleasing to You. So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here today that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us. I pray that You’d bring us back safely to next week when we can deal with some other areas of conflict. But, Lord, I pray that as we leave here today that You would just burden every single person in here in a way that’s loving and generous and in a way, Lord, that makes us all walk out of here going, “I need to really rethink some things in my areas of marriage in my relationship so that I can do all the things that God’s called me to do for Your glory, God. You’re first.”

And Lord, I pray that You would make that a reality here at Grace. Lord, a place where marriages can thrive and marriages can grow. We love You for it, Lord. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said “amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him.